English English Spanish Spanish

Police Brutality Laws: Know Your Rights About False Arrests

man in handcuffs

Almost every month, we see news of police officers abusing their authority. The situation underwent international scrutiny during the George Floyd protests a couple of years ago, but police misconduct and brutality have been happening for much longer. Unfortunately, sometimes the people meant to protect citizens are the ones acting with excessive force and harming people’s lives.

One of the most common forms of police misconduct in New York is false arrests. When a police officer wrongfully arrests a person, they compromise the rights of the person to liberty — a clear violation of their constitutional rights. Not only is this a traumatic and inconvenient experience, but a false arrest also diminishes society’s trust in the police department.

False arrests can happen to anyone, so if you have been falsely arrested, you need to speak to a lawyer immediately and understand your rights. In this article, The Pagan Law Firm will discuss all things related to false arrests and what you can do if you ever experience one.

For a free consultation, call our law firm today at 212-967-8202.

What Is a False Arrest?

As the name implies, a false arrest is when a person or plaintiff is held in custody without probable cause or reason by state or local law enforcement. This is a violation of your civil rights and is considered a misdemeanor offense.

Though the circumstances under which a false arrest may occur vary, it typically happens when police officers detain an individual without probable cause to believe that they have committed a crime. False arrests can also occur when officers use excessive force during an arrest, resulting in injuries to the detainee.

Individuals who have been the victim of a false arrest may be able to file a lawsuit against the arresting officer or department. Such lawsuits often allege that the officer violated the individual’s constitutional rights and seek damages for the injuries that were sustained. If you have reason to believe that you’ve been falsely arrested, you can file a police misconduct lawsuit with the help of a New York police brutality lawyer.

When Can a Police Officer Make an Arrest?

There are laws in place for police officers to be able to make an arrest to ensure citizens are protected from unlawful searches and arrests. If the officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person they are arresting is the one who committed the crime, then they can arrest them without a warrant. However, if the police officer has an arrest warrant, they are legally allowed to make that arrest. Additionally, if the person is committing a crime in front of the officer, or if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the person is about to commit a crime, they can also make an arrest. Lastly, if a person is interfering with another arrest or crime, the police officer can make an arrest. If you have been arrested and the police officer did not follow one of these laws, it may be considered a false arrest. Be sure to call a police misconduct attorney to see if you have a valid claim.

What Is Probable Cause?

Probable cause is a legal standard that must be met before the government can intrude on an individual’s privacy. It is based on the reasonable belief that someone has committed a crime. This standard is important because it protects citizens from being subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures. Probable cause is based on the facts and circumstances known to the police officer or investigator at the time of the arrest or search. It is not necessary that there be proof beyond a reasonable doubt or even evidence that would lead to a conviction. However, there must be more than a hunch or guess that a crime has been committed or that evidence will be found in a particular location. If there is no probable cause, an arrest cannot be made and a search warrant cannot be issued.

Other Forms of Police Misconduct

A false arrest is a violation of your civil rights and a clear form of police misconduct, but it’s not the only way police brutality manifests. Here are the other ways unlawful abuse of power can happen.

Excessive Force

Also called excessive violence, excessive force is when police officers use more force than what should be necessary when arresting, investigating, or searching a person. Deadly force should only be used if someone is posing a significant threat or to prevent their escape. If you’ve experienced this kind of force during a simple search, then you can file a complaint for violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

Police Brutality

Excessive force belongs to a larger umbrella term called police brutality. This is used to cover various human and civil rights violations made by police officers and even government officers. These are extreme forms of police misconduct and are usually in direct violation of federal law, state law, and police department regulations.

Unlawful Detention

Unlawful detention is the arrest or confinement of an individual without their consent and without legal justification. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may also be referred to as false imprisonment, illegal detention, kidnapping, or criminal restraint. Unlawful detention can occur in a number of different situations, but typically involves law enforcement officers or other government officials. The individual who is unlawfully detained may be held in a police station, prison, or another type of facility. Regardless of the circumstances, unlawful detention is always a violation of an individual’s human rights. If you have been unlawfully detained, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

As the name implies, unlawful search and seizure involves police officers searching a person or their property without:

  • A search warrant
  • Any probable cause
  • Consent

Citizens have the right to refuse a search given the conditions above, and police officers who continue to do so are doing unlawful search and seizure. This is a violation of constitutional rights and can result in property damage and emotional distress.

Physical Harm

Excessive force can result in physical harm during an arrest. In milder cases, a person can get scratches and bruises. However, there are police misconduct cases that result in permanent injury and even death, such as the case of George Floyd. Physical harm can be in the form of battery or assault. For this lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish that the officer was on duty or exercising their power while also showing evidence of physical harm.

Psychological Harm and Humiliation

Arrests, false or not, can be an emotionally traumatic event for a person. Psychological harm can also occur during searches and seizures, especially if police officers show extreme or outrageous behavior, act recklessly, and say or do things that cause severe emotional distress.

Citizens can file police misconduct cases if police officers recklessly, negligently, or intentionally cause psychological harm. For civil lawsuits, some states will require evidence of physical harm for emotional distress cases. However, this is not the case in New York.

Who Has the Right To Arrest You

On-Duty Police Officer

In most cases, NY police officers arrest you with a warrant created by a court. But, they can also arrest you without one as we’ve mentioned. This only happens in situations where they think that a person is an immediate threat or is caught in the act of committing a crime. They’re acting “under the color of law” and engaging in their duties.

Off-Duty Police Officer

The New York City Police Department, and other departments in general, usually discourage off-duty officers from making arrests since they become more prone to civil liability. But, there are situations where they must make an arrest, like witnessing someone perform an illegal act and if they have reasonable suspicion that someone is a danger to those around them.

False arrest lawsuits are more common for off-duty arrests, but receiving compensation still isn’t easy. You need experienced civil rights attorneys to help you analyze your situation and fight for your rights.

What Are Your Rights?

What exactly is being violated during a false arrest? The Fourth Amendment protects people’s property from unreasonable search and seizure, and this serves as the basis for false arrest cases. Police cannot arrest someone without a warrant or probable cause to believe that they’ve committed something illegal. In addition, the Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from entering your property, like a home or vehicle, without reasonable suspicion.

When a false arrest happens, your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is violated. Law enforcement officials who infringe on this right must be held accountable. Anyone acting under the color of law who doesn’t respect a person’s constitutional rights shall be held liable by the other party, which could be you or your loved ones. To get the justice and compensation you deserve, you can file a civil lawsuit with the help of civil rights attorneys like The Pagan Law Firm.

What Makes an Arrest Warrant Invalid?

While most people associate false arrest lawsuits with warrantless arrests, you can still file a civil complaint even with an arrest warrant. The only thing you and your attorney need to prove is that the arrest warrant was invalid. That can happen based on the following factors:

  • The police officer was dishonest about the probable cause of an arrest to the judge who filed the warrant. These false statements must be integral to finding the probable cause to invalidate the warrant. If the judge finds probable cause that isn’t affected by the false statement from the police, the warrant still holds.
  • If a warrant doesn’t state the court where it’s issued from, doesn’t adequately address the person to be arrested by name, or doesn’t specify the kind of crime, then the warrant is invalid.

If you’ve been arrested and believe that the warrant is invalid, seek legal action with the help of civil rights attorneys.

What Happens During a False Arrest Lawsuit and Who Can You Sue?

There are actually a few ways a false arrest lawsuit can go. With each option, you’ll need competent legal representation to help you pursue justice.

  1. You can file a complaint against the arresting New York police officers. With this, you can demand that they face repercussions for their misconduct. This can mean suspension, retraining, and in the most extreme cases, termination. You can also file criminal charges for physical injuries you sustained because of excessive force, police brutality, and other forms of misconduct. Criminal charges also apply to police who deliberately use false information to get you arrested.
  2. The most common option is to file a lawsuit for civil rights violations. This is usually filed against the officer and the police department. With this, you can demand monetary compensation for the damages you suffered during the arrest. This can include medical bills, wages lost, emotional distress, and violation of civil rights. In addition, a civil rights lawsuit allows you to demand an injunction, which requires the department to either terminate the offending officer, undergo retraining, or update its arrest policies.
    The biggest challenge you’re going to face here is qualified immunity. With this, police officers cannot be sued in a civil lawsuit unless the plaintiff can show that the law enforcement officer clearly violated a person’s constitutional rights. But, with a competent attorney, you’ll have a higher chance of getting the compensation you deserve.
  3. If you’ve been charged with a crime but still experienced a false arrest, you can file a motion that excludes pieces of evidence obtained during the false arrest. This may help reduce charges or drop them completely if the evidence gathered was unlawful. Be sure to speak with a police brutality lawyer to determine if can exclude a piece of evidence during your false arrest. Call The Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 to speak with a dedicated and experienced lawyer today!

What Damages Can You Recover

There are two types of damages you can recover if you are involved in a police brutality case against false arrest. These are compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

Also called “actual damages,” compensatory damages are awarded by the court for the financial losses that the plaintiff suffered. These include:

  • Outstanding or Cleared Medical Bills: Those who suffered injuries during the false arrest are entitled to compensation for the medical bills they have or are going to pay in the future. Even if you’ve already paid hospital bills, you can still get reimbursement as ordered by the court.
  • Continuing Treatment: There are two ways you might need continuing treatment after a false arrest. First, you might need counseling or psychological intervention to deal with the trauma of a false arrest. Second, the injuries you’ve sustained might require physical therapy and additional medications before you can fully recover. You’re entitled to monetary compensation to finance these treatments.
  • Lost Opportunities: A false arrest can damage someone’s reputation or cause them to miss important events. So, if this event cost you a promotion or a meeting with a client, you can be entitled to a monetary sum equivalent to your lost income.
  • Lost Wages or Job Loss: You may not just lose opportunities after a false arrest. You can lose wages as well. At best, you won’t have income for a few days. At worst, you could get fired because of incorrect negative assumptions about your arrest. All these situations entitle you to compensation for the wages you lost.
  • Pain and Suffering: This refers to the emotional distress and physical discomfort you experienced after being subject to police brutality, misconduct, and false arrests. Since it’s hard to put a monetary value on subjective feelings, it’s more difficult to get compensation for pain and suffering, but working with an experienced police brutality lawyer, they will fight for your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

Punitive Damages

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages in a civil lawsuit. They are intended to punish the defendant, whether it’s the police officer or the entire department, for their conduct and deter others from engaging in similar behavior. In most cases, punitive damages are only awarded if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious.

To prove that they are entitled to punitive damages, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s conduct was outrageous and that the defendant acted with malice or reckless indifference to the rights of others. In many false arrest cases, the plaintiff will also need to show that they suffered some sort of harm as a result of the defendant’s conduct. If the plaintiff is successful in proving their case, they may be awarded punitive damages in addition to any compensatory damages that they are already entitled to.

How To Defend Yourself: Hire a Police Misconduct Attorney

The most important person you’ll want to have with you when filing a false arrest lawsuit is an experienced police brutality attorney. With their help, you can be assured that your rights are upheld. They will help you navigate the legal process and provide adequate representation in the court of law.

The Pagan Law Firm is one of the most trusted law firms in New York, and our team of experienced attorneys has in-depth knowledge of cases involving police brutality and misconduct. If you believe that an element of law enforcement has infringed upon your rights, we’re here to help. We will offer you all available legal options, defend your rights, seek justice, negotiate on your behalf, and help you get the compensation you deserve.

Filing a lawsuit for a false arrest or police brutality case may seem like an uphill battle, but we have the skills, resources, and knowledge to handle it all. Don’t lose hope just yet.

Get the Justice You Deserve With a Police Abuse Law Firm

The police force is meant to protect us and uphold the law, but its members can abuse their authority and act illegally. A false arrest is one of the most common forms of police misconduct, and you or your loved one can fall victim in your next interaction with law enforcement.

If you’ve experienced a false arrest and want to file a civil rights lawsuit, we’re here to help. Let our team provide legal solutions and get you the justice you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, please call us at 212-967-8202.