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California Lawyers Handling False Arrest Claims



Legal Recourse for Victims of False Arrest

Police officers in the U.S. cannot arrest anyone, anytime they like. An arrest must be lawful. Law enforcement must have probable cause or a warrant to arrest a person. False arrest occurs when a person is restrained without legal justification. Police officers and their departments can be held liable for false arrest in a civil lawsuit for damages.

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What Must You Show to Prove False Arrest in California?

To prevail in a civil lawsuit for false arrest, you must show that:

  • Police arrested you without a warrant, or with a warrant that was invalid.
  • You were actually harmed.
  • Police conduct was a substantial factor in causing the harm you suffered.

To avoid liability, the police officer must show that the arrest was reasonable based on the facts of the case. The officer may claim he or she had probable cause to make the arrest or believed in good faith that the arrest warrant was valid. Police officers have probable cause to make an arrest under two conditions:

  • The suspect committed a crime in the presence of the officer; or
  • The officer has reasonable cause to believe the suspect has committed a felony offense.

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What Could Make an Arrest Warrant Invalid?

Unlawful arrest can occur even when the officer has an arrest warrant – if the warrant is invalid. Any of the following factors can make an arrest warrant invalid:

  • Police lied to the judge who issued the warrant about having probable cause for the arrest. To invalidate a warrant, false statements made by the police must be integral to the finding of probable cause. If the judge could have found probable cause without them, false statements will not invalidate the warrant.
  • The warrant does not state by which court it was issued.
  • The warrant does not name or adequately identify the person to be arrested.
  • The warrant fails to specify the crime for which the person is to be arrested.

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When Can Police Not Make an Arrest?

California law limits the discretion of police officers as to when they can arrest and take a person into custody and whether they can incarcerate a person in jail. Generally, officers are prohibited from making custodial arrests for certain infractions and misdemeanors. The exceptions are when a person fails to present a driver’s license or ID, and refuses to provide a thumbprint or fingerprint, or fails to sign the written “Notice to Appear” that comes with a ticket.

Generally, police officers cannot arrest a person for a misdemeanor that was not committed in the officer’s presence. There are exceptions to this rule, such as arresting a person who is driving under the influence or committing domestic assault and battery. An officer cannot arrest a person for a stale misdemeanor, even if the crime was committed in the officer’s presence. The arrest must be made within a reasonable length of time, or it becomes unlawful. However, the police officer can detain the person who committed the stale misdemeanor to get information for an arrest warrant.

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What Recourse Do You Have for False Arrest?

The law provides recourse and legal remedies for false arrest. If you are facing criminal charges, your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence with the court. You can file a complaint against the officer. You may be entitled to file a lawsuit for monetary damages in civil court against the officer and the department. In a false arrest lawsuit, you may also demand an injunction (order of the court) requiring the police department to fire the officer who committed the offence, retrain their officers, or change their policies for arrests.

If you have been falsely arrested, contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460. We can advise you of your legal options in a free initial consultation.

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Contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP Today
Phone: (213) 688-0460
Fax: (213) 624-1942

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