What Brooklyn Residents Need to Know About False Arrests

What is a false arrest? You’ve heard the term before, but you might not understand it, or how it can be used to help your criminal law case.

In order to arrest you lawfully, the police must have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. They may also arrest you if they have an arrest warrant, which means a judge has reviewed their evidence and agrees that there is probable cause to arrest you.

If a police officer arrests you for any other reason they have conducted a false arrest.

Why do false arrests happen?

Often, false arrests are the result of racial profiling. We’ve also seen cases where the police officer simply got angry with a person’s “attitude.”

While we recommend being polite with police officers while asserting your rights, a police officer does not have the right to arrest you just because they do not like the way you are speaking to them. They certainly do not have the right to arrest you because they do not like the color of your skin. 

Another case of false arrests comes in shoplifting and theft cases where private security guards sometimes hold suspected shoplifters in small rooms for hours against their will. If they can’t prove a crime was actually committed you may be able to launch a false arrest case. 

Can proving a false arrest help with your criminal case?

Yes. If the police have made up charges or have arrested you simply because they didn’t like or you made them angry, then we can often demonstrate this to prosecutors by reviewing the evidence, as well as the police officer’s own reports.

An arrest generates a great deal of paperwork in New York, including an arrest report, the UF-61 Complaint Report, and the Criminal Complaint report. Sometimes there are Property Voucher reports and stop-and-frisk reports as well. We review all of them to look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and if there is a lack of probable cause we do not hesitate to bring that to a prosecutor’s attention. 

Often this can result in dropped or dismissed charges, long before you ever have to go to court or to trial. 

What can you do about a false arrest?

You can sue in civil court, where it is essentially a personal injury lawsuit, or you can bring the course to federal court, where it will be a Fourth Amendment violation. You can generally only do this after you have resolved the criminal case with your attorney. 

If your charges are dropped or dismissed, or if you are acquitted, then you will be in a much better position to launch a lawsuit.

See also:

Do You Have a Right to Record Officers?

What to Do When Stopped By Officers

New Law Removes Bail for Many Arrests

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Neil S. Ruskin
188 Montague Street Suite 900
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Local: (718) 237-1547
Fax: 718-875-4011