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False Arrest in New York

Every day, New York police officers risk their lives to protect the rest of us from harm. Their job is undeniably dangerous, stressful, and at times, thankless.  By and large, New York’s Finest measure up to their brave and upstanding reputation. Yet every so often, you hear about a cop on a power trip, using his authority to intimidate and detain an undeserving citizen, causing physical harm, mental anguish, financial losses and public humiliation. Citizens who have been the victims of false arrest in New York will find that  the civil rights attorneys of The Sanders Firm can recover compensation for the harm inflicted upon them.

We are advocates for citizens whose basic rights have been trampled by government agents, especially those in law enforcement. Next to outright police brutality, false arrest is the most common abuse of power committed by New York police officers at every level.

False arrest defined, frequency

A false arrest happens when a police officer detains and arrests a citizen without having met the standards set forth in the law.

Arrests are lawful if:

  • There is an outstanding warrant on the citizen.
  • There is reasonable cause to believe that the individual was involved in a criminal offense.
  • If the officer believes the citizen is a suspected felon trying to flee the scene of a crime.
  • If the citizen is interfering with a lawful investigation or arrest.

Unless one of these standards is satisfied, the officer has no right to detain you.

False arrests happen much more frequently than most people imagine. According to the CATO Institute’s 2010 National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) Police Misconduct Statistical Report 6.8 percent of all misconduct complaints against police are based on false arrest. We imagine that this is only a fraction of actual false arrests that happen, either because people don’t know their rights or are too intimidated to challenge police action.

How do police and corrections officers violate civil rights?

Cops command a unique position wherein they have ample opportunity to violate civil rights.  However, members of law enforcement violate individual’s civil rights typically in one of two ways:

  1. Through “stop-and- frisk” procedures AND/OR
  2. By planting evidence.

Stop-and-frisk is a controversial policy in New York, especially in New York City, that allows police officers to stop and question pedestrians, and ultimately pat them down to search for weapons and other illegal items based on a very low standard of “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity.

In a 2013 ruling, U.S. District Judge Shire Scheindlin held that stop and frisk is a method that law enforcement uses to target Hispanics and African Americans under a racially discriminatory policy. They accounted for 87 percent of the over 680,000 residential stops in 2011. Judge Scheindlin believed that over 200,000 of these stops were done without reasonable suspicion. The ruling continues to be the subject of much debate as Mayor de Blasio has pledged to reform the standards of this policy.

As civil rights lawyers based in New York City and Long Island, The Sanders Firm continues to monitor the controvery. We learn from the plight of Kenrick Gray, the Staten Island man who was falsely arrested and detained for 36 hours after an illegitimate stop-and-frisk. Though he was later vindicated by his lawyers, Mr. Gray’s case serves to highlight how easily this policy can lead to a false arrest.

The domino effect

False arrest can snowball into further improper actions on the part of police officers, and we at The Sanders Firm have represented clients who have suffered from various types of police misconduct including malicious prosecution and even false imprisonment.

Malicious prosecution occurs when police officers make a false arrest and later prosecutors overlook the illegal means used to detain the suspect. Victims who are unaware of the illegality of their arrest can still be forced to proceed even without legal justification for the initial arrest. A baseless prosecution is malicious by definition.

False imprisonment is the result of an arrest made without probable cause. Though each type of accusation may exist independently in a civil rights lawsuit, those who are falsely arrested will likely have a good case for false imprisonment as well.

False arrest makes New York headlines

NYC residents claiming false arrest often make the local news.

  • In December of 2013, an ex-convict was falsely arrested in Brooklyn for illegal gun possession. Leroy Davis was apprehended by plainclothes cops who claimed that he dropped a black plastic bag containing crack cocaine and a 9mm handgun when he made eye contact with the officers. When the case came to trial, it was determined that the cops recovered the items from their informant, not Davis. For the 13 months he spent in jail, Davis was awarded $560,000 by a Brooklyn jury.
  • Even police officers may be the victim of false arrest. Last year, a Nassau, Long Island police officer was arrested by 2 other cops. The female officer who was falsely detained claimed racial motivation on the part of the 2 white male officers.
  • In June 2013, a Queens woman sued the city for $50 million dollars after she was falsely arrested on drug charges.

Talk to a NY civil rights lawyer

We believe that anyone who has been mistreated by police officers in New York, NYC, and Long Island deserve justice for their ordeal.  If you feel you’ve been a victim of false arrest, call 1-800-FAIR-PLAY to set up your free, no-obligation consultation, please. Our friendly staff is standing by to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  1. NY Daily News, Brookly jury awards $560K to ex-con after false arrest, https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/jury-awards-560k-ex-con-false-arrest-article-1.1551283

  2. NY Times, Without Jury, Judge Warned that Stop-and-Frisk Ruling Would Be Disputed, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/03/nyregion/without-jury-judge-knew-stop-and-frisk-ruling-would-be-disputed.html

  3. NY Post, NYPD faces five years of oversight after stop-and-frisk ruling, https://nypost.com/2014/03/05/nypd-faces-five-years-of-oversight-after-stop-and-frisk-ruling/

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