Charleston Wrongful Arrest Lawyers
Wrongful Arrest & False Imprisonment in South Carolina
A person who has been wrongfully arrested or falsely imprisoned may have a civil cause of action against the person or entity that brought the charges or made the false accusations. Being wrongfully accused of a crime or falsely accused of criminal activity can result in damages such as attorneys’ fees and missed time from work, as well as humiliation, embarrassment, and damage to your reputation. These types of cases can arise in various contexts, including where a person wrongfully brings criminal charges against you, where a security guard or store worker falsely accuses you of a crime and detains you, and where law enforcement makes an unconstitutional arrest without probable cause.
These cases are complex and, in certain circumstances, can also lead to claims for defamation. It is important that you work with a Charleston wrongful arrest attorney who is experienced with both wrongful arrest and defamation to maximize the value of your false imprisonment case.
If you have been a victim of a false arrest or were wrongfully detained or imprisoned, contact Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC today to discuss your legal options during a free consultation: (843) 408-0599.
What Is Wrongful Arrest?
Wrongful arrest, also known as false arrest, occurs when a person is unlawfully restrained. While many people immediately think of law enforcement when they hear the term “false arrest,” in reality, anyone can wrongfully arrest another person, not just police officers.
You may have been wrongfully arrested if you were:
- Held against your will
- Taken into custody without legal grounds/justification or your consent
Note that an arrest is not necessarily wrongful simply because you did not want to be arrested or did not consent to have your freedom/movements restrained. Instead, you must be able to prove several important elements to have grounds for a wrongful or false arrest claim.
These elements include:
- The person/party intended to confine and/or restrain you
- You were conscious that you were being confined/restrained
- You did not consent to be confined/restrained
- There was no legal justification for the confinement/restraint (the arrest was not “privileged”)
It is important to prove each of these elements; without all of them, you do not have grounds for a false arrest or imprisonment claim.
Understanding Probable Cause
The issue of justification is typically the most contested in wrongful arrest and false imprisonment cases. Often, an individual may feel that their rights were violated because they were arrested without justification, but the defendant (whether it is a police officer or another party) argues that the arrest was justified on legal grounds. In most cases, the alleged legal grounds is probable cause, meaning the person making the arrest had sufficient facts and evidence to believe the other person had committed a criminal offense or was in the process of committing one.
Probable cause is a common defense to wrongful arrest/imprisonment accusations, and the issue of guilt is not relevant in such cases. In other words, the arresting party does not need to prove that you were actually guilty of committing a crime, only that they had reasonable cause to believe you were engaged in unlawful activity.
What Is a “Bad” Arrest?
The line between a wrongful arrest and a bad arrest is very thin. Commonly, “bad arrests” occur when law enforcement, security personnel, or other authorities make an arrest based on incorrect information. For example, if someone accused you of committing a crime and called the police, the police may arrest you based on this accusation. Even if you did nothing wrong, this would not constitute a wrongful arrest, as the police had probable cause due to the other person’s statement that you had committed an offense.
Although you would not have grounds for a wrongful arrest lawsuit against the police in this example, you may have grounds to sue the individual who falsely accused you of a crime. Additionally, the individual could face criminal penalties for making false accusations and related offenses.
It is important to note that you should never resist arrest, even if you believe law enforcement is violating your rights. It is unlawful to resist arrest when a police officer has probable cause to arrest you, and it can be extremely difficult to differentiate between an unlawful arrest and a bad arrest. If you are arrested, even if you are innocent of any wrongdoing, do not resist arrest. Comply with the officer’s orders, do not make any statements whatsoever, and contact an attorney immediately.
How Is False Arrest Different from False Imprisonment?
Although false arrest and false imprisonment are very similar—and they are often discussed together—there are several key differences between the two. Simply put, false imprisonment includes a broader range of conduct than false arrest.
While wrongful arrest involves unlawfully detaining an individual without probable cause or a court order or warrant, false imprisonment is the intentional restriction of another person’s movement and/or freedom. A person who is held in jail without probable cause may have grounds for a false imprisonment case, as may someone who was handcuffed by a security guard without legal justification.
Both false arrest and false imprisonment are intentional torts, meaning they can give rise to civil action. Unlike other types of personal injury cases, which are often based on negligence, intentional torts require the element of intent. This means that you must prove that the person who unlawfully restrained, detained, or confined you acted with purpose and the intent to restrict your movements and/or freedoms.
Damages in Wrongful Arrest & False Imprisonment Cases
If you were wrongfully arrested or falsely imprisoned, you face several significant, life-altering consequences. An arrest, even when carried out without justification, can wreak havoc on your life. Not only will you face lost wages for days you were unable to work after the arrest, but you may even face the threat of losing your job altogether. Additionally, being arrested is extremely humiliating, even when you have done nothing wrong.
If you were wrongfully arrested or falsely imprisoned in Charleston or anywhere in South Carolina, you are well within your rights to sue for damages.
The exact type of damages you may be able to recover will depend on the specifics of your situation, but they may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income/wages
- Loss of liberty
If you believe your civil rights have been violated, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney who understands the law and knows how to aggressively advocate for you. You should choose a legal team that not only has experience but has specific experience in this complex area of law.
Fighting for Your Civil Rights
No one should have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for no reason. At Clawson Fargnoli Utsey, LLC, we believe that law enforcement officials and private citizens who wrongfully arrest and/or falsely imprison innocent people should be held accountable for the pain, suffering, and damage they cause.
With decades of combined litigation experience and a proven track record of success, our Charleston false arrest attorneys have what it takes to aggressively advocate for you. We are always available when you need us and are happy to discuss your rights during a free, confidential consultation.
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