However, in order to successfully press a claim for damages for false arrest, there are things you should know. First, an arrest occurs at the moment an individual’s liberty is restrained and they are not free to leave. This is true whether or not physical restraints – like handcuffs – are used, and whether or not actual law enforcement is involved. For example, you can be “arrested” if you are stopped by police and told not to leave while they write out a summons even if you are not handcuffed. Similarly, you can also be “arrested” if you enter a store or other private business establishment and are then prevented are from leaving by their employees or security guards. In either of these circumstances, both the police and private businesses need probable cause before they can restrain you.
In addition, while most arrests do result in criminal charges and prosecution, being charged criminally is not necessary for you to bring a false arrest claim. This means that if you have been arrested and ultimately released without charges, you still may have a right to sue. However, if you are charged criminally, it is important to remember that a guilty plea will automatically forfeit your right to sue for false arrest (even if you are not in fact guilty), but, if you do not plead guilty and your criminal charges end up in dismissal or acquittal, you can sue for false arrest.
Just because your case was dismissed, do not think your false arrest claim will be easy. In fact many individuals lose claims because they – and their attorneys – do not have a proper understanding of the many ways officers can establish probable cause to arrest and otherwise immunize themselves from damages. Others may not file claims because they are overwhelmed or demoralized by the process and feel intimidated by the prospect of suing police officers or government agencies. This is precisely why you need a knowledgeable and experienced team of litigators who know the system and the adversary process inside and out. Having this will give you a distinct advantage and can turn a difficult, overwhelming case into a highly successful and lucrative victory for you in the end.