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Few things are more upsetting than when officers or other government officials maliciously use their position of power. Just ask Donald Hamlett, who was pulled over not once, but twice, for DUI charges in Chesapeake, Virginia, during the same year, by the same police officer.
Cleared of both charges, Hamlett is now suing the arresting officer, Frank Chappell, for $1 million. He believes the second arrest was malicious prosecution, claiming Chappell did so "out of spite, ill-will and hatred." Chappell denies any wrong doing, and will be represented by a local City Attorney.
Let's Go to the Videotape
Hamlett, a 64-year-old musician, was driving home from an evening gig in January 2015 when Chappell pulled him over. Hamlett's dashcam recorded the arrest. In this first DUI trial, Hamlett claimed Chappell had misrepresented the events of the arrest. Though Chappell had testified in front of this judge numerous times, and the judge had never doubted Chappell before, he did feel there was some doubt based on the dashcam footage, and dismissed the charges against Hamlett. Perhaps Chappell, who had been recognized in 2012 by Drive Safe Hampton Roads for his enforcement of drunken-driving laws, was a little bent out of shape over this.
False Arrest -- Take Two!
Fast forward a few months post trial. Hamlett is driving the same car, coming home from a gig at the same location, on the same night of the week, and is pulled over for the same crime by the same officer. Hamlett's dashcam again records the arrest.
At trial, Hamlett is cleared again, this time by a different judge, but for the same reason -- insufficient evidence. Hamlett has had enough. He comes from a police family, and though he does believe officers deserve respect, perhaps this one may be a bad egg. Hamlett claims these arrests have affected his life tremendously, both financially and emotionally, and that is why he felt compelled to sue Chappell.
Did Chappell Have Probable Cause to Continue Prosecuting?
To prove malicious prosecution, which is a civil offense, Hamlett will need to prove that:
To prove there was no probable cause at the second DUI hearing, Hamlett will claim that, at the DUI stop, he did not fail a breathalyzer test (since none was properly administered), and that he didn't appear intoxicated. Hamlett claims he will be able to prove damages, as he is afraid to drive and take evening gig for fear of another DUI arrest by Chappell. Hamlett may have difficulty, however, proving Chappell continued to prosecute knowing that there wasn't probable cause. That's where the lawyers and experts will spar.
If you have been cleared in a criminal case and believe that you were the subject of a malicious arrest, contact a local personal injury lawyer, who can review the facts of your case, to see if you too have a case against the arresting officer. A lawyer can help clear your name, and potentially earn you a monetary judgment.