Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara
Content last updated on: May 19, 2023
Disclaimer: The O‘Mara Law Group strives to provide the highest quality of legal representation for our clients. However, due to the volume of cases we receive, we reserve the right to select civil rights cases of national significance on a discretionary basis. We appreciate your understanding as we strive to provide the best possible service.
You may have the right to file a civil rights lawsuit and seek compensation if you have been the victim of a false arrest in Florida. The police must have probable cause that you have committed a crime before you can be detained or taken into custody. Anything less is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.
The experienced Florida false arrest lawyers at the O’Mara Law Group can help you assert your rights and fight to make things right.
Since 2007, our award-winning trial attorneys have been leading advocates for victims of false arrest, police misconduct, and other blatant violations of civil rights. We have gained national recognition for our dedication to our clients and our ability to achieve top results.
The police are not above the law, and our Florida false arrest attorneys are here to help you hold them accountable for the harm they have caused. Call our law offices, conveniently located in Orlando and Lakeland, Florida, to learn more. Your first consultation is free.
What does false arrest mean?
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The police must have:
- Reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime to detain you
- Probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime to make an arrest
You can’t be restrained, detained, arrested, or have your freedom to move interrupted by the police without lawful justification. When this happens, it is referred to as a false arrest or wrongful arrest.
Understanding Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause
So what exactly do reasonable suspicion and probable cause mean? What is a lawful justification for detention or arrest?
Courts have ruled that a police officer may stop or detain an individual if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person has committed a crime or poses a threat to others. What is “reasonable” depends on the circumstances. It must be more than a gut feeling or hunch and must have “specific reasonable inferences” based on the facts and the officer’s experience.
For instance, a police officer might have reasonable suspicion to detain someone if they match the description of a person involved in a crime. However, if it becomes clear that the individual is not who they are looking for, the police would have to let them go immediately.
That is because an arrest must be based on probable cause, which is a higher standard. Probable cause must be supported by facts and evidence and suggest that an individual has likely violated the law or poses a threat to others.
For example, the police might have the right to arrest someone if they match the description of a suspect and an eyewitness puts them at the scene of the crime (even if the eyewitness is mistaken).
False arrests, also known as false imprisonment, must be taken seriously. When a person is falsely arrested — especially in instances of false testimony, police brutality, or other acts of police misconduct — it can lead to malicious prosecution or wrongful conviction.
Wrongful convictions are all too common in Florida and across the nation. In fact, it is believed that as many as one out of every 10 prisoners in the United States is wrongfully convicted.
How do I know if I have been falsely arrested?
Many times, there is a fine line between a lawful arrest and a false arrest. False arrest cases have two important considerations:
- You were unlawfully restrained or detained against your will (you didn’t consent to be seized by law enforcement)
- The restraint was unreasonable under the circumstances
You may have been falsely arrested if:
- The police made a warrantless arrest.
- The police make false statements to obtain an arrest warrant.
- You are placed in handcuffs, put into the back of a squad car, or required to sit on the side of the road while the police illegally search your car.
- The police plant evidence to make an arrest.
- You are stopped by the police and are intimidated into believing that you aren’t free to leave.
- You are coerced or threatened into confessing to a crime you didn’t commit, then taken into custody.
- Your arrest or detention is racially motivated.
- You are arrested to cover up police misconduct.
- You are arrested for annoying or irritating a police officer, but you haven’t broken a law.
As the plaintiff in a false arrest suit, you have the burden of proving your case. You must prove that you were intentionally and unlawfully restrained by the police by a preponderance of the evidence. Your allegations of this type of police misconduct must be more likely true than not when supported by facts and evidence.
What can a victim of false arrest do to obtain justice?
False arrest is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Section 1983 of Title 42 gives you the right to sue the police officer, police department, or municipality responsible for making or supporting the false arrest.
In a Section 1983 lawsuit, you must prove:
- Your constitutional rights have been violated (i.e., you were falsely arrested).
- The person who violated your rights acted under the color of law.
Essentially, you have to prove that you were falsely arrested by someone acting under the authority of the law or the asserted authority of the law.
A successful false arrest lawsuit brought under Section 1983 of the United States Code can allow you to recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. Compensatory damages can include money for:
- The cost of medical treatment and related medical expenses
- Lost wages, earnings, and income
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Related out-of-pocket costs
Punitive damages can be awarded when clear and convincing evidence proves that the police officer (or another liable party) acted intentionally, with malice, or to deceive.
The court can also award attorney’s fees, which make up for any out-of-pocket costs or expenses related to hiring an attorney and bringing litigation for the violation of your civil rights.
What is the time limit to bring a false arrest claim in Florida?
Since Section 1983 lawsuits have no standard statute of limitations, the time limit is established by Florida state law. If you have been falsely arrested in Florida, you will have four years to bring a Section 1983 false arrest claim.
It is important to reach out to an experienced false arrest attorney near you as soon as you suspect a civil rights violation. The sooner your attorney can begin to investigate, gather evidence, and build a claim, the more likely you will get the financial justice you deserve.
Trust the Orlando Civil Rights Attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group
The police must be held accountable for intentional and blatant violations of your civil rights. If you were the victim of a false arrest in Florida, call the O’Mara Law Group for help. Our Orlando civil rights attorneys are ready to help prove that you were unlawfully restrained by the police and work to make things right.
Our client testimonials show we are respected for our hard work, our dedication to our clients, and our ability to achieve top results. Trust our experienced Orlando false arrest attorneys to fight for you. Call our law office in Lakeland or Orlando to discover why you want us on your side. Your initial case evaluation is free, so contact us today
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