False Imprisonment and potential Legal Malpractice

A big change in the False imprisonment law, coupled with an analysis of 42 USC 1983 changes comes from the "lawyer Dude's" blog.

"This is a hopefully going to be a short post. Last week (in fact the day after the court heard argument in Rita/Claiborne) it announced its decision in Wallace v. Kato. The issue effects both criminal lawyers and civil rights attorneys (or for those of us at The Law Offices of Anthony J. Colleluori & Associates, PLLC. both sides of our brains.)
Up until now it was always the procedure, that after a person was arrested (and imprisoned) he would be able to sue the government, whether or not he filed a notice of claim against the county, by alleging the same behavior(e.g. false arrest and unlawful imprisonment) through the use of a 42 USC 1983 suit. In the US District Courts in NY, The statute of limitations was always thought to be within three years of the end of his incarceration and his prosecution whichever came later. "


The court in its decision in Wallace has changed a number of things dealing not only with filing but also with pleading the case.

1. False arrest is a subset of unlawful imprisonment.
2. The statute of limitations for a 42 USC 1983 claim arising from an unlawful imprisonment claim is as long as the time one has to file a personal injury suit in the state where the action accrues. In New York State, that means 3 years.
3. The date of accrual begins on the date of arrest and the tort ends at the time of arraignment.
4. All the damages that occur after arraignment are properly recompensed in a Malicious Prosecution based suit not by a false arrest/unlawful imprisonment cause of action.
5. While a Malicious Prosecution based suit's statues of limitations may be tolled by the case of Heck v. Humprey, 512 US 477(1994), actions for false arrest and unlawful imprisonment are not so tolled.

Now here's the thing, we all know that it is easier to win a false arrest/unlawful imprisonment case, because it does not require that we win the underlying criminal action. We can accept a dismissal that is favorable on the issue of the arrest not the prosecution (ACOD's [ACD's for NYC Guys]; Dismissal in the interest of Justice, speedy trial dismissals). Malicious Prosecution based causes of action, requires a favorable termination of the prosecution itself. So in order to preserve the clients right to compensation, we have to go to trial, or at least get a "full surrender" from the DA on the prosecution's merits(a "no true bill" from a grand jury counts.) "

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