Being arrested is not usually associated with being a pleasant experience. You may be frightened, angry or confused, and you may not know how to behave. This is especially true if you believe that you have done nothing wrong. The silver lining is that you have legal recourse if you have been unlawfully arrested.
However, in order to take advantage of the rights that you have been given under the Constitution, you need to understand what an unlawful arrest looks like, as well as whether or not what you experienced qualifies as an unlawful arrest. Here is what makes an arrest a wrongful arrest, and what you can do about it if you’re ever in a wrongful arrest situation.
The Definition of Wrongful Arrest
A wrongful arrest, also known as a false arrest or false imprisonment, occurs when a person is detained by someone who does not have the legal authority to actually arrest another person. To make an arrest, a police officer requires either a warrant or probable cause-reasonable grounds that the person they are arresting committed a crime. Wrongful arrest is a crime, and in most states, it is a misdemeanor offense.
Both the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution protect you against wrongful arrest. The Fourth Amendment requires that in order to obtain a warrant to arrest someone, there must be a proper investigation, evidence of probable cause, and correct legal proceedings. The Fourteenth Amendment forbids taking away someone’s life, freedom or belongings without due process. When you are arrested without due process – in other words, without the arresting party following the proper protocols – your rights have been violated.
Wrongful Arrest Situations
Though wrongful arrest has just one definition, there are many different circumstances in which it can occur. Retail settings are one of the more common places where wrongful arrest can occur. An employee or owner of a store might detain a customer because they suspect them of shoplifting or another crime that happened on store property. The police may be called and make an arrest based solely on the testimony of the retailer.
In both of these scenarios – the retailer, as well as the police officer – a false arrest has been made. In the first situation involving the retailer, it is because the person was subjected to an unjustified citizen’s arrest; in the second situation, the person was deprived of due process when the investigating officers did not gather enough evidence to establish probable cause for an arrest.
Additional situations that may qualify as a wrongful arrest include:
- The wrong person was arrested
- Miranda Rights were never brought up during the arrest
- The arrest warrant was based on untrue information
- The officer made the arrest out of a desire for their own gain or out of malice
- The arrest was based solely on the race of the suspect
This last scenario is called racial profiling and, like the many other varieties of false arrest, fails to follow the proper and necessary procedures for a legal arrest.
Should I Resist a Wrongful Arrest?
Although resisting a wrongful arrest can be legal under specific conditions, it is almost never a good idea to resist an officer when you are being arrested.
In general, resisting arrest is a crime. If you believe, in the course of an arrest, that your arrest is unlawful and choose to resist, you can face steep penalties for not cooperating if it’s later determined that the arrest was justified. The punishment for the crime of resisting arrest may even be more severe than the punishment for whatever you were arrested for initially.
In areas where resisting arrest is always illegal, you provide probable cause for arrest by resisting, and thereby forfeit your claim of false arrest. Only certain locations allow for the public to resist an arrest that they believe to be unlawful. Resisting arrest can also make the situation escalate, leading to injuries or death of you or the officer, which can never be undone.
If you are being arrested, always cooperate. Your situation can be peacefully and legally resolved after the fact with the help of an attorney.
Pursuing a Lawsuit Requires the Help of a Legal Professional
If you have been wrongfully arrested, your next step should be to file a lawsuit. You can sue for many types of damages, including wages and work opportunities lost because of your arrest, damage to your reputation, and any physical harm you may have endured, among others. If the arrest caused you medical bills, you can receive compensation to recover the amount that is due.
If you have experienced a false arrest, make sure you respond in the right way. The attorneys at The Brown Firm would be happy to assist you in putting together a case to defend your rights. Reach out to learn more about whether you have a case or to schedule a consultation to get started.