Arrest Goes Viral, But Lawsuit Fails

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By George Khoury, Esq. on April 16, 2019 10:00 AM

Viral videos of people getting arrested are becoming more and more common. But every arrest video is not evidence of excessive force or police brutality. Sometimes those videos are actually evidence of an arrestee’s own wrongdoing.

Simply put, video evidence of an arrest can cut both ways.

Video Evidence Cuts Both Ways

In the case of Matthew Bair, out of Pennsylvania, the video taken by his friend that went viral really didn’t do him any favors.

The officer in the video clearly appears to be being harassed with the camera simply for asking for identification. The video shows the officer patiently waiting for Bair to come to his senses and just show him ID so that he didn’t have to get arrested. Bair’s friend showed ID and wasn’t arrested, though that wasn’t shown on the video. The video did show Bair being extracted from his car forcibly after refusing multiple requests to exit.

Apparently, Bair and his friend were allegedly yelling obscenities from a parking garage. When the officer found them in the garage, he requested identification. Bair refused, saying something about how it’s a free country, then entered his vehicle. The officer followed, opened the car door, and that’s where the video begins

While many individuals may think that recording interactions with police will provide valuable evidence, as in Bair’s case, it clearly doesn’t always help, and can actually hurt. Bair spent over 3 months in jail because he could not post bail, then was released with a $300 fine and 25 hours community service. Bair filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force, but recently dismissed his own case, and there was no settlement announced.

Can Officers Really Demand ID?

Generally, officers are allowed to ask potential suspects, or witnesses, to identify themselves. Motorists can be asked to produce their driver’s license. Additionally, if you are asked to show your ID to an officer and don’t comply, regardless of the legality of it, you may be at risk of being arrested, and end up, like Bair, incarcerated for months, pending a trial or plea bargain to a lesser charge.

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