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Anthony Allen, of Portland, Oregon, is suing the city for nearly half a million dollars as a result of a wrongful arrest that happened in May 2015. While this may seem like a big number, keep in mind that not only was this man wrongfully arrested, criminal charges were actually pursued against him. Thankfully, a jury acquitted him on those charges.
Wrongful arrest cases can be rather difficult cases to prove. Generally, a person asserting that an arrest was wrongful must prove that an officer lacked justification to make the arrest. In Mr. Allen's case, it is alleged that the arresting officer racially profiled him and lacked any probable cause.
Facts of the Case
Mr. Allen, who's only 23 years old, was on his way home from work, on his bicycle, in the late evening, when he reached a police perimeter around his neighborhood. Law enforcement officers were searching for a shooting suspect. Somewhere along the perimeter, two law enforcement officers cleared Mr. Allen to return to his home, which was in the area being searched.
As he approached his home, an officer jumped out and stopped Mr. Allen. He attempted to explain that the other officers had cleared him to return home. When the officer yelled at Mr. Allen, he turned and started to leave to get away from the aggressive officer. That's when the officer physically stopped Mr. Allen. Though he stated that he would comply, he was taken to the ground, then aggressively cuffed. He was booked and charged with interfering with a police officer.
Proving Wrongful Arrest Claims
A wrongful arrest claim requires showing that an officer did not have justification, or in legal terms, probable cause, to make an arrest. Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, in order for an officer to conduct a search, or arrest an individual, without a court order (warrant), the officer must have personally witnessed something that makes them believe a crime has been, or will be, committed (that's probable cause).
As a result of probable cause being attributed to what an officer believes, individuals bringing wrongful arrest claims frequently struggle to disprove an officer's subjective beliefs that a crime has been, or would be, committed. Also, just because the police arrest the wrong person, if there was probable cause, that person may not have a wrongful arrest claim.