Being locked up and held in a jail or detention center is an unpleasant and frightening experience, and it can be made even worse if you are wrongfully arrested. Investigators and police officers may at times make mistakes when they think they are doing the right thing, and end up arresting the wrong person.

At other times, however, there is no justification, whatsoever, for a person’s arrest—and the police know it, but they arrest someone anyway. Fortunately, in many cases, people who are wrongfully arrested have legal options.

If you or someone you love has been wrongfully detained or arrested by police or other law enforcement officers, you may assert a legal cause of action against the arresting officer and the police department for whom the arresting officer works under 42 U.S.C Section 1983.  This law allows citizens to file lawsuits against government actors who deprive them of their constitutional rights while acting in their official capacity or “under color of law”—particularly when they take actions that they know or should know are wrong.

Even if you were detained at the police station and never charged with any actual crime, you may still have a case for unlawful detention, especially when the police act on information or evidence they know is false or unreliable, or when they know the suspect is innocent—such as when they charge a compliant suspect for resisting arrest.

Making an Arrest

For a police officer to make a lawful arrest, he or she must meet at least one of the two following criteria:

  • Probable cause – The officer must have probable cause that a criminal offense was committed and that the suspect was the individual who committed it.
  • Warrant – To make a valid and lawful arrest, the arresting officer must already possess a warrant that a court exercising valid jurisdiction over the suspect issued.

In some instances, the arresting officer would need to have probable cause that the suspect committed a crime, along with an exception to the warrant requirement, for him or her to make a valid arrest. An exception to the arrest warrant requirement may come into play, for example, if the officer notices something in plain view (especially in an automobile), and this evidence leads to the suspect’s arrest.

If the arresting officer does not satisfy one of these two legal criteria when making an arrest, then the suspect may be in a position to challenge the arrest. An experienced wrongful arrest lawyer will be able to investigate all of the circumstances surrounding your arrest and can help you determine if you are in a position to assert a valid legal claim.

Legal Protections Against False Arrest

In cases of false arrests, federal law often comes into play. In the United States, individuals are protected under both the United States Constitution (specifically the Fourth Amendment), as well as various federal statutes, including Section 1983 of the United States Code and the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

First, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals against searches and seizures that are unreasonable. A wrongful arrest—sometimes called a false arrest—is one such type of unlawful seizure. Wrongful arrests also violate an individual’s civil rights. Consequently, an individual who is the victim of a wrongful arrest may file a claim under Section 1983 of the United States Code. This Code section allows civil rights lawsuits against arresting police officers, municipalities, and other governmental entities.

For an individual to file a civil rights lawsuit under Section 1983, he or she must satisfy the following legal elements:

  • Show that the arresting police officer or other law enforcement officer who performed the arrest used force against the individual that was not reasonable under the given circumstances of the time
  • Demonstrate that the individual suffered some type of harm as the result of a wrongful arrest

A knowledgeable wrongful arrest attorney can assist you with proving the legal elements of your wrongful arrest case and can help you fight for the justice and damages you deserve.

Potential Defendants in Federal Wrongful Arrest Cases

In a wrongful arrest case, there may be several potential defendants. First and foremost, the individual who was wrongfully arrested (and who suffered damages as a result) may be able to file a claim or lawsuit directly against the police officer and any other members of law enforcement who directly participated in the wrongful arrest.

In addition to the arresting officer, the victim of a wrongful arrest may be able to bring a claim or file a lawsuit against the arresting officer’s employer. This party is usually the police department or the municipality (such as the county, city, or state) where the wrongful arrest occurred.

By reviewing the circumstances and facts surrounding your arrest, an experienced wrongful arrest lawyer will name all potentially responsible parties to the claim or lawsuit that is filed, increasing your chances of recovering compensation.

Contact Our Wrongful Arrest Lawyers Today

Individuals who are victims of a wrongful arrest can suffer not only physical damage, but also mental damage, emotional harm, and severe distress, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

If you or a person you love has been the victim of a wrongful arrest, you should look no further than the compassionate legal team at The Zeiger Firm. Our team of lawyers will look at your case from every angle and fight for your legal rights in court. We will also do our best to help you pursue monetary compensation for your injuries and damages resulting from your wrongful arrest. For example, you may be eligible to recover compensation for related medical expenses, pain and suffering, mental distress, and time missed from work.

The experienced police brutality lawyers at The Zeiger Firm can investigate the circumstances of your arrest and help you pursue the justice you deserve.

Call us today for more information about how we can assist you with pursuing a legal claim based on a wrongful arrest. We handle federal cases that arise in the following counties that comprise the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the federal court system: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a wrongful arrest attorney, call us at (215) 712-1758 or contact us online today to learn more.