Most of the time the law works on our side to protect us from criminals. However, like in every industry, law enforcement officers are capable of poor judgment too, and wrongful arrests can happen. When a wrongful arrest occurs, not only can it be embarrassing for the person wrongfully arrested, it can result in unwanted legal expenses, injuries and other losses.
If a wrongful arrest happens to you, it’s important to have a reliable Greenville, S.C. criminal defense attorney on your side. Read more about how Attorney Sam Tooker helped confidentially settle a malicious prosecution case in Mauldin, South Carolina.
What is a Wrongful Arrest in South Carolina?
A wrongful arrest is also known as a false arrest or false imprisonment and it occurs when either a private individual or a law enforcement agent holds you or takes you into custody against your will. It is committed by someone who intentionally and wrongfully limits or restricts another person’s personal liberty without their consent.
A Wrongful Arrest by a South Carolina Law Enforcement Agent
In some cases, wrongful arrests are made by law enforcement agents. Many people think this occurs when the police make an arrest that is not ultimately supported by evidence. However, to be guilty of a false arrest, the police must have acted without probable cause, or in a way that otherwise goes beyond their authority or scope of power.
For example, if an arrest is made based on evidence that turns out to be false, this would not be considered a wrongful arrest since the law enforcement agent was acting on reasonable suspicion that the person may have committed the crime.
On the other hand, if someone is arrested without evidence, or with evidence that was gathered unlawfully, then under certain circumstances these could be considered wrongful arrests.
False Arrests Vs. Bad Arrests in South Carolina
When considering law enforcement liability for arrests of people that may not have deserved to be arrested, there are gray areas and lots of room for confusion.
There is a difference between a “bad” arrest and a “false” arrest, and not every arrest results in liability. For instance, if someone makes a statement to law enforcement or in court that is false, and a person is arrested as a result, this is more fairly characterized as a “bad” arrest because law enforcement had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to make the arrest. In these cases, once the truth comes out, the defendant should promptly be set free and charges should be dropped. However, in cases where law enforcement has probable cause to make the arrest, a defendant is not within his rights to sue the police for the arrest.
In other instances, however, where a law enforcement officer makes an arrest based on a subjective belief that is not supported by objective evidence, a defendant may be within his rights to sue for the arrest. In such instances, law enforcement may lack probable cause to make the arrest, because a law enforcement officer’s suspicion might not be reasonable if it is not supported by objective evidence. There are also instances where law enforcement may detain and search someone without probable cause, and the search may result in an arrest if drugs or other contraband are discovered. If the search is in violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures, then an arrest may be unlawful if it was supported solely by evidence that was unlawfully discovered. In particularly egregious instances, a defendant may have grounds to sue for the arrest, even if the arrest was based on illegal contraband discovered during the search.
Resisting Arrest in South Carolina
A word about resisting arrest. Resisting a lawful arrest is illegal. However, it is technically not illegal to resist an unlawful arrest. However, as discussed above, there can be a fine line between a “bad” arrest and a “false” or unlawful one. It can be particularly difficult to discern whether an arrest is unlawful in the moment, while it is taken place. Therefore, even if a police officer tries to arrest you for a crime you didn’t commit or acts illegally in making an arrest, it is best not to try and resist as resisting arrest may be considered a crime even if you are acquitted of the underlying charges.
Wrongful Arrest by Private Persons in South Carolina
Law enforcement officials are not the only people who can make wrongful arrests. Wrongful arrests can also be made by private persons.
One type of wrongful arrest can occur when someone locks you in your home against your will. A more common type of wrongful arrest by private persons occurs when a person is detained by a store for shoplifting without grounds to suspect them of shoplifting.
Private security guards are also considered private persons and it is not uncommon for them to make wrongful arrests by accusing someone of shoplifting without having any evidence. If the guard uses force or threat of force or otherwise restricts the personal liberty of a shopper without consent and without a lawful reason, this can be considered false imprisonment.
Security guards can lawfully detain a person temporarily until the police arrive if they are certain they have been shoplifting. However, if they are not certain or they don’t have probable cause to believe someone has committed a crime, this would be considered a wrongful arrest.
Civil Damages for a Wrongful Arrest in South Carolina
If you have been the victim of a wrongful arrest, you are well within your rights to sue for damages. You may have been humiliated during the arrest, it may have negatively affected your reputation and you may have even been physically harmed. Whenever you are wrongfully arrested, you have the right to pursue a civil case for money damages regardless of whether the state chooses to file criminal charges against the arresting guard or officer.
Particularly egregious examples of wrongful arrest can sometimes support a civil rights lawsuit in Federal district court. These types of cases are known as “Section 1983” lawsuits. and are named after the section of federal law, United States Code Section 1983, which authorizes them.
1983 cases are commonly filed against police, prison guards and other state officials who systematically use excessive or unreasonable force while acting in their official capacity. Some examples of cases which may warrant a 1983 lawsuit include those where people have suffered harm as a result of an illegal search or similar actions. In these cases, the victim will sue the individuals involved, their superiors or the city or county government that employed them.
Wrongful Arrest Lawyers in Greenville, S.C.
If you are the victim of a wrongful arrest, you may feel intimidated because an officer of the law or someone with similar authority is involved. However, it is important to remember that you didn’t do anything wrong and you have a right to be compensated for your losses.
If you believe you have been detained or arrested without basis, it’s important to speak to a Greenville, SC wrongful arrest attorney as soon as possible. Do not make any statements or file a complaint until you have done so, and do not plead guilty to the charge for which you were arrested.
If you are looking for a Greenville, S.C. wrongful arrest lawyer, look no further than the law offices of David R. Price Jr., P.A. With over two decades of combined experience in the profession, the criminal defense lawyers at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., are known for their passion and experience in helping their clients seek justice. They are not easily intimidated, and they are dedicated to getting their clients the compensation they deserve. Trust the criminal defense lawyers at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., to fight for you so you can regain your dignity, your reputation, and stability in your life. Call us today.