Police may not arrest an individual, seize property relating to an alleged crime, or conduct a search of a person or premises without probable cause. With proper authority, police can be said to have adequate reason to conduct a search, an arrest or a seizure of property. Probable cause to arrest stems from an officer’s knowledge of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Probable cause may not arise simply from a police officer’s suspicion or hunch. Instead, it must be grounded in facts or circumstances that would cause a reasonably prudent person to believe:
- That the person to be arrested has committed the crime.
- That the place to be searched is the scene of a crime.
- That the place to be searched contains evidence of a crime.
- That the property to be seized is stolen, contraband, or otherwise constitutes evidence of a crime.
Lack of Probable Cause
Normally, police have legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement. A police officer who arrests a person without probable cause or who knows the person to be innocent of criminal activity may be liable for false arrest. A person deprived of his liberty due to false arrest may also be wrongfully detained for a period of time. An individual who is falsely arrested may file a lawsuit against the arresting officer, the police department and the municipality for damages. Such damages may include mental distress, injury to reputation resulting in financial loss, and loss of salary while wrongfully detained .
Filing a Lawsuit
False arrest can be humiliating, emotionally devastating and expensive. However, holding a police officer liable for false arrest can be complicated. The police officer must have deliberately detained someone with no actual knowledge that the suspect committed a crime. Even arrests that turn out to be unjustified cannot be classified as false arrest if they were made with the proper legal authority. Allegations of false arrest should be carefully evaluated by a competent attorney who is familiar with the types of facts and damages involved in false arrest and other police misconduct cases.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of false arrest, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (800) 504-9590 or contact us online.