When individuals with certain powers and authority hold you against your will, it could be a case of wrongful arrest. Wrongful arrest, also commonly referred to as false arrest, is a contentious and broad topic. For example, what exactly is considered wrongful arrest and what's not? How do you determine that the defendant's actions towards the plaintiff were wrongful? You'll find the answers to these and many other questions here.
What Is Wrongful Arrest?
From the legal perspective, wrongful arrest refers to the unlawful restraint of a person's freedom of movement. In that case, one individual holds another against their will or takes them into custody without consent or legal authority to do so.
Types of Wrongful Arrest Cases
Cases of wrongful arrest vary from one situation to another. Generally, here are the most common types of wrongful arrest cases.
Arrest of the Wrong Person
When a police officer or security guard arrests the wrong person, it could be a case of a genuine mistake or wrongful arrest. For an arrest to be considered wrongful, law enforcement must have acted without cause or beyond the scope of their powers.
Below is an example.
Suppose the police arrest you based on someone else's sworn statement. In that case, if it turns out that the sworn statement was a lie, then this may not be a case of wrongful arrest. The defense could argue that the police might have acted within their powers and based the sworn statement from the witness. However, this situation is also subject to interpretation and additional scrutiny by a judge.
On the other hand, if you insult law enforcement and they become angry, their anger should not be a reason to arrest you. This is because insulting a police officer might be morally wrong but not a crime. Therefore, a police officer cannot arrest you based on their anger or resentment of your actions.
Arrest Without Probable Cause
Police officers need probable cause to arrest a suspect or obtain an arrest warrant from a judge. However, sometimes, some law enforcement agents arrest individuals without probable cause, which violates the victim's constitutional rights. For such an arrest to be considered lawful, the police officer must establish enough reason to proceed with the arrest.
Probable cause cannot be based on an individual's “feelings.” Instead, it should be based on facts surrounding the circumstances. So, for example, a police officer cannot arrest you just because they had a hunch that you were a robber. Instead, they can arrest you if they have facts to support their actions.
Lying to Obtain an Arrest Warrant
There have been numerous cases where law enforcement authorities have previously lied to a judge to obtain an arrest warrant. For example, in the winter of 2021, a Seattle court ruled that a longtime King County sheriff's detective lied under oath to obtain a search warrant against a murder suspect. As a result, the individual was wrongfully arrested by a SWAT team. He then sued the officer and King County over the incident after it was established that the officer had exaggerated her statements to obtain an arrest warrant.
Racial profiling is a common problem in the United States. There have been countless cases where members of particular racial backgrounds are more likely to be wrongfully arrested by law enforcement and even security guards than their counterparts from other races. If you or your loved one has been arrested for race-related reasons, you need to consult with an experienced attorney.
Malice-driven arrests are usually conducted to harm the victim in one way or another intentionally. Although these cases vary from one situation to another, some common examples of malicious arrests include:
- arresting an individual to cover up misconduct;
- arresting an individual to punish them for something not related to their arrest;
- arresting an individual to ruin their reputation by bringing baseless criminal charges against them; or
- arresting an individual to divert attention from the actual perpetrator of the crime.
Arrest Without Reading the Miranda Rights
The Miranda rights are a kind of notification or warning given by law enforcement to individuals in custody informing them that:
- they have a right to remain silent;
- anything they say can be used against them in court;
- they have a right to have a lawyer present during questioning; and
- the state can appoint a lawyer for them if they cannot afford one.
However, it's important to note that the Miranda warning is only required when a suspect is in custody, and the police intend to ask them questions and then use the answers as evidence during a trial. If the police do not read the Miranda rights to the suspect, they cannot use whatever the suspect says while in custody as evidence in court.
This further explains why police officers usually avoid arresting suspects - and make it clear to them that they are free to go. By doing so, they do not have to give a Miranda warning because the suspect has not been arrested. The police will then work on getting the incriminating statement they need, and at that point, they may be able to arrest the suspect.
Arrest for Personal Gain
Police officers cannot arrest you for their personal gain. Instead, they must have a legitimate and legally-accepted reason to justify the arrest.
Examples of Wrongful Arrest Cases
John goes shopping at the mall. He walks into one of the stores selling designer shoes but fails to find what he is looking for. John also struggles with social anxiety and does not like crowded places. As a result, he decides to leave the store.
A security guard confronts John at the store's entrance and accuses him of shoplifting. He then detains John and calls law enforcement. This could be a case of wrongful and unlawful arrest.
The arrest is considered unlawful because John did not shoplift, and the security guard had no reason to arrest him in the first place.
Other common cases of unlawful arrests include:
- a police officer arresting you simply because you annoyed them but did not break any law;
- a police officer arresting you after planting drugs or other illegal substances or items on you;
- a police officer forcing you to admit to a crime you did not commit to find a reason to arrest you; and
- a police officer handcuffs you and searches your car without any reason to do so.