Legal Dictionary

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False Arrest

False arrest is a type of false imprisonment or wrongful arrest in which a person is detained without his or her consent and without legal authority. A false arrest is a tort (civil wrong). A lawsuit can be brought for money damages resulting from a false arrest. Private citizens and police officers commit a false arrest when their actions are beyond the scope of their authority. Lawsuits against police officers in false arrest cases are challenging and difficult to win because police officers rely on probable cause for an arrest. Most claims for false arrest are aimed at private security companies, whose employees sometimes use force or threats to detain people. The victim of the false arrest in a civil lawsuit would have to prove that he / she was harmed in some way by the false arrest. The problem in these types of civil lawsuits is that the harm to the victim must be proved and that is difficult to do in many cases. If the harm is proved ,the victim can obtain monetary compensation for the harm suffered.

Many claims of false arrest involve the detention of shoplifters. Due to growing concerns over shoplifting, many states have enacted laws that allow merchants to detain customers suspected of shoplifting for the purpose of investigating the situation. In California, merchants are allowed to detain people for a reasonable time for the purpose of investigation when the merchant has probable cause to believe the person is attempting to steal or unlawfully take merchandise from the store. (California Penal Code Section 490.5) See also False Imprisonment.

False arrest and false imprisonment are very similar and are practically indistinguishable. A false arrest occurs when someone detains, restricts or confines another person against their will and does so falsely claiming to have legal authority or by a law enforcement agent who lacks probable cause or legal grounds to detain or arrest someone. A false imprisonment, on the other hand, is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another accomplished by violence, fraud, or deceit.

If you believe you were falsely arrested or are being charged with false imprisonment, speak to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Do not speak to law enforcement until you have spoken with an experienced attorney.