False Arrest: A Civil Harm and a Crime that Allows Victims to File for Damages


There are times when people wrongfully bring criminal charges against certain individuals or when a person is falsely accused of a crime and, thus, detained by a worker or a security guard, or still, when someone holds another person ( against that person’s will) inside his or her home. All scenarios speak of what is called “false arrest.”

False Arrest, also called wrongful arrest or false imprisonment, happens when someone wrongfully holds another individual against his or her will or takes him or her into custody. When private citizens or law enforces act outside or beyond their scope of their authority, then this damaging mistake is most likely to happen.

Though without serious intentions, as in the case of kidnapping, false arrest is still considered a “lesser included offense” of kidnapping. This is because, like kidnapping, false arrest involves an unlawful detention of another individual.

False or wrongful arrest includes:

  • Arresting the wrong person
  • Arresting a person despite the absence of probable cause
  • Arresting someone without reading the suspect’s Miranda Rights
  • Arresting a person without just cause
  • Arresting someone based on false information
  • Arresting someone for personal gain
  • Arresting someone based on pure malice

It is advised, however, that people who are wrongfully arrested never resist arrest or this may only cause them major legal problems. When their specific case reaches the court, then the mistake committed against them can be exposed; this mistake will be their basis in filing claims for damages, which may include:

  • Lost wages during period of incarceration
  • Embarrassment and damage to reputation
  • Physical harm that he or she may have been sustained during the wrongful arrest
  • False imprisonment
  • Punitive damages
  • Illness that he or she may have incurred as a result of the wrongful arrest

Individuals may file for a claim only if they are not found guilty (in court) of any of the charges brought against them. This means that, if found guilty, but due to wrongful arrest, the court can have the lawsuit filed against them dismissed; however, they will not be entitled to file for damages.

Even if the arrests were made by law enforcers or state officials, those wrongfully arrested can file complaints based on the violation of their civil rights. These civil rights complaints or lawsuits are known as “Section 1983” suits (named after the United States Code Section 1983, which is a federal law).

False arrest is a civil harm and a crime; thus, wrongfully arrested individuals have the legal right to sue for damages in a civil lawsuit (which may be filed against the individuals who made the false arrest, their superiors, or the business establishment or county government that employed them). As explained in the website of wrongful arrest & false imprisonment lawyers of Clawson and Staubes, LLC, “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 attorney’s fees and missed time from work, as well as humiliation and embarrassment.”

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