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A 2017 incident that illustrates false arrest by a police officer

In 2017, a Joliet, IL, resident filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a police officer and the City of Joliet on the grounds of false arrest.

The plaintiff also claimed that she had been unlawfully detained. In 2018, the case was dropped and she received a settlement, but it came with certain conditions attached.

About a false arrest

An arrest can take place once a court provides an arrest warrant and there is reasonable and probable cause to believe that the person under arrest has committed a crime. On the other hand, a false arrest is one that occurs without a warrant or probable cause.

What happened

The police officer, who became the defendant in the lawsuit, entered the plaintiff’s home without probable cause or any other justification, according to the suit, and asked if the resident had sent a text message to her son. Sending a text message supposedly violated an order of protection the son sought, but the court had denied the request some hours earlier. Therefore, the mother was under no restrictions or orders in terms of contacting her son. However, when she confirmed that she had sent the text message, the officer arrested her on a charge of violating a protection order.

Federal versus state law

On the subject of false arrest, federal law is more complex than state law because violation of Fourth Amendment rights becomes the focus. Part of that amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

The settlement

The plaintiff understood the importance of civil rights protections, and her lawsuit claiming false arrest against the police officer and the City of Joliet was successful. The city agreed to drop the case, but the plaintiff had to agree “to refrain from making any disparaging statements about the released parties,” meaning the police officer who was the defendant and her fellow officers. The city paid the plaintiff $30,000, saying that the purpose of the settlement was to avoid the time and money necessary for further litigation. 

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  • Facing: 365 days in jail, loss of legal residence
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