Even though Chicago is no stranger to police misconduct, you don’t have to be physically roughed up by the police in order to get compensation for police behaving badly.
Here are four tips to consider for Chicagoans who feel they’ve been subjected to false arrest:
1. Know the Legal Standard.
In general, police and other law enforcement agents have qualified immunity which protects them from lawsuits for actions while performing their official duties.
In order to sue a police officer or officers for false arrest, you must prove that there was no probable cause that you were engaged in criminal activity at the time of your arrest.
2. File a Tort Claim.
If you can prove that there was no probable cause for an officer to arrest you, then your Fourth Amendment rights were violated and you can take steps to sue the police for false arrest.
The first step will likely be to file a tort claim against the city. If your claim is rejected, or if the city fails to respond within a certain time frame, then you can proceed with a full-fledged lawsuit.
3. Seek Punitive Damages.
In many cases of false arrest, the police maliciously or intentionally violate an arrestee’s rights, either by simply arresting them in a retaliatory fashion or even inappropriately touching them during the arrest.
For example, Lemont resident Olga Alexsoff sued Naperville police for false arrest in 2011, after officers allegedly arrested her without probable cause or warrant and intentionally touched her breasts during the arrest.
When evidence is presented that officers maliciously or intentionally violated an arrestee’s rights, punitive damages (i.e., money) can be awarded to the victim as a punishment for those malicious acts.
4. Collect Evidence.
Since the crux of any false arrest case is probable cause, the factual record of the case is especially important to a judge or jury.
Most police departments, including the Chicago PD, have a system for requesting and obtaining copies of police reports for a small fee, and you should also try to locate eyewitnesses not mentioned in the report.
5. Consult an Attorney.
Whatever the facts might be, consult a Chicago civil rights attorney who is knowledgeable about false arrest claims so that you can a more complete view of your options in a potential false arrest suit.
Remember, just because an officer didn’t punch or shove you doesn’t mean you don’t have a case.