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Can You Sue the Police for False Arrest in California?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Civil Rights

A false arrest occurs when police unlawfully restrain you without any legal justification. Police officers across the nation are not allowed to make arrests without reason, as they must have a warrant or probable cause. Also, arrests can start out lawful but become unlawful as the situation escalates. For example, if you get pulled over for a faulty tail light and are given a ticket, the officer cannot tell you not to leave until they’ve searched your car for drugs.

Being arrested for anything can be stressful, but if you believe the officer in your case arrested you unlawfully, you have the right to sue. Civil rights attorneys can help protect the rights of those who were victims of false arrests and hold the police officers accountable. Many California residents are unaware of their rights, which is why we’re committed to educating the public about how to exercise these rights and hold responsible parties accountable.

What Counts as a False Arrest?

False arrests occur when police have no legal grounds for arresting you. While they need probable cause or a warrant to make an arrest, false arrests can still occur even with a warrant. This mainly occurs when a warrant is invalid, meaning one of the following statements is true:

  • The warrant doesn’t properly identify you.
  • The warrant doesn’t describe the crime you committed.
  • It doesn’t state which court issued the warrant.
  • Police lied about the situation in court so that they had probable cause.

If a police officer is found to be acting in good faith, they can defend themselves against a false arrest claim. They would need to prove they believed the warrant was valid and they believed it was for you.

How to Prove False Arrest

Proving that an officer performed a false arrest is more challenging than many realize. There are specific grounds your case must meet to have a chance at holding the officer in question accountable. These include:

  • The police officer lied to you without a warrant or with an invalid one.
  • You were harmed during the arrest.
  • The police officer’s conduct was the primary reason for the harm.

If you make a claim that a police officer arrested you without legal justification, the burden is placed on the officer to justify their actions. Their common defenses include acting in good faith or that they had probable cause for arresting you. Officers may try to use the qualified immunity defense when faced with false arrests. Qualified immunity means they’re protected against certain lawsuits, but you may be able to show the judge that the officer violated a constitutional right.

Suing a Police Officer for False Arrest

If you decide to file a false arrest claim in California, you can sue the officer who performed the arrest for monetary damages. These damages can include medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and more that were a result of the arrest. In most cases, the police department will pay the civil damages.

However, while you can sue the police for false arrest, you should still cooperate with them during the arrest. If you fight back in the moment, the situation can escalate, preventing you from holding them accountable. Exercise your right to remain silent and talk to a lawyer who can address your situation. Having legal representation by your side allows them to use their knowledge of California law to determine how to proceed with your case.


Q: How Do I Sue for False Arrest in California?

A: If you can prove that the arrest was performed without a warrant, with an invalid warrant, caused harm to you, or the officers’ conduct caused harm, you can sue for false arrest. To do this, you can file a false arrest claim with the civil court against the officer and their department. Should you be successful, you can receive monetary compensation to recover from any damages you sustained.

Q: How Do I File a Complaint Against a Local Police Department?

A: If you were falsely arrested for a crime, you can file a complaint by calling the local law enforcement agency. If your complaint isn’t resolved in doing this, you can then contact your county’s district attorney where the department is located. By contacting either agency, you may be able to resolve the situation before this gets sent to court.

Q: What Are Some Examples of False Arrest in California?

A: False arrests occur due to one of the following situations:

  • Planted evidence or fabricated statements.
  • Malicious actions, including personal remarks or vengeful purposes.
  • Invalid warrants.
  • Making arrests without a warrant.

In California, any arrest that occurs when police officers have no legal justification is considered a false arrest. If you can prove the officer arrested you falsely, you may be able to sue them for monetary compensation.

Q: Is It Worth Hiring a Lawyer for a False Arrest Case?

A: Absolutely. The legal system in California is known for being complex and full of small details. Also, people may be unsure how to hold responsible parties accountable, which is why we recommend you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your situation before filing a complaint. Your odds of receiving compensation may increase in doing so.

Let Our Team at Exum Law Offices Help

We know how stressful and scary it can be to be falsely arrested. Police officers are required to abide by their own set of regulations and keep people safe from harm. However, some police break their boundaries and make arrests without any justifiable reason. You shouldn’t have to suffer because of their irresponsible actions, and you have certain rights you can use to defend yourself. If you’ve been falsely arrested in California, our team at Exum Law Offices can help.

We’ll examine your entire case and determine how we can hold the police officers involved responsible for their actions. If you’re looking to sue them, we can help you file a claim and navigate the difficult legal system. For more information on how we can help, contact us today.