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Frequently Asked Questions about False Arrest

Q.

What is the legal definition of "false arrest"?

A.

False arrest and false imprisonment claims arise when a person=s liberty or freedom of movement is unlawfully restrained.

Q.

When does it become a legal problem?

A.

A person may bring a claim of false arrest or imprisonment against either a government officer or a private citizen who makes a citizen=s arrest or restrains someone against his or her will.

Q.

Can I sue if the charges were dismissed or if I was found not guilty?

A.

Not necessarily. A claim or lawsuit for false arrest or imprisonment depends on whether the arrest or detention was legal, not on the guilt or innocence of the person who was arrested or detained. Brewer v. Perrin, 132 Mich. App. 520, 527, 349 N.W.2d 198 (1984).

Q.

What is a legal arrest?

A.

Whether an arrest is legal turns on whether probable cause existed for the arrest. Probable cause has been defined as Areasonable grounds for belief, supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion.@ United States v. Bennett, 905 F.2d 931, 934 (6th Cir.1990). It requires Aonly a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity, not an actual showing of such activity.@ Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 244 n.13 (1983). In other words, to have probable cause, an officer making an arrest must have a reasonable basis for believing a crime has been committed, and the belief must be based on more than unsupported suspicion.

Q.

Can I sue for false arrest if the arrest warrant was thrown out on a technicality?

A.

No. If an officer has a warrant that appears valid, he or she has probable cause to make an arrest, and no claim of false arrest can be made. Gooch v. Wachowiak, 352 Mich. 347, 351-54, 89 N.W.2d 496 (1958).

Q.

Can I sue if I was found guilty of the crime?

A.

No. Similarly, if a person has been convicted of the crime for which he or she was arrested, the conviction is conclusive proof of probable cause. Blase v. Appicelli, 195 Mich. App. 174, 489 N.W.2d 129 (1992).

The information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice or representationYou should talk with an attorney if you have any questions about how this information applies to your own problem or facts.