Is False Arrest a Civil Rights Violation?
If you are the victim of a false arrest, then your civil rights were violated. When the police violate your civil rights, you can sue the police to hold them responsible for their wrongdoing.
This guide discusses how a false arrest is a violation of your civil rights. It then discusses steps you can take to hold the police accountable.
The Elements of a False Arrest
Although a false arrest can occur when a civilian falsely arrests someone, it typically occurs when the police perform an arrest.
A false arrest occurs when:
- The police deprive the victim of his liberty;
- The victim was conscious of his confinement;
- The victim did not consent to his confinement; and
- The arrest was not privileged.
The last element, that “the arrest was not privileged,” typically relates to whether the police had probable cause. In other words, if the police have probable cause to conclude you committed a crime, then they have the right to arrest you.
In most false arrest cases, the police will argue that they had probable cause to arrest you (even if you were later found not guilty of the charges). If you were arrested, an experienced false arrest lawyer can evaluate your case to assess whether the police had probable cause.
How False Arrest is a Civil Rights Violation
When the police falsely arrest you, they violate your 4th Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution. The 4th Amendment gives you the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Congress enacted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to provide a way to sue the police when they violate your civil rights.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, any person who acts under the “color of state law” and deprives a person of their constitutional rights shall be liable. In other words, if a person acts under the authority of state law (like a police officer) and violates a person’s constitutional rights (like your 4th Amendment right against unreasonable seizures), then that person is liable.
If you were unlawfully arrested by the police, then you can sue the police under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 federal law. In addition to federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, you can likely also bring claims under state law. If you think you have potential claims, contact an experienced false arrest lawyer to determine all possible claims.
Steps to Take If You Were Falsely Arrested
If you were falsely arrested, the first step is to make sure that you file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
In New York, the statute of limitations for 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims is 3 years. However, the statute of limitations for related claims under New York State law is 1 year and 90 days. Also, you must provide the City of New York notice of your claim within 90 days after the incident occurred.
You have the right to sue the police on your own. When you sue the police by yourself, you are called a pro se plaintiff. One advantage of being a pro se plaintiff is that you avoid legal fees. To be sure, most civil rights lawyers take cases on a contingency basis, meaning that you pay nothing out-of-pocket. Still, if you are successful as a pro se plaintiff, you will not owe any attorney fees.
That said, the law is very complicated, and having a seasoned lawyer handling your case can make a big difference. A lawyer could be the difference between winning and losing. A lawyer could be the difference between a five figure or six figure verdict. Ultimately, the decision about whether to retain a lawyer is yours to make.
If the NYPD violated your rights and you are looking to retain legal representation to sue the NYPD, contact us for a free consultation. We are experienced trial lawyers who can give you an honest assessment of your case. We take civil rights cases on a contingency basis, so you pay no out-of-pocket legal fees. We only get paid if you get paid.