Sometimes officers will try to cover up their own misbehavior or failure to follow law enforcement procedures by improperly charging victims with crimes. In more extreme cases, this method is also used to hide acts of brutality as well as the fact that there is no underlying crime. One of the most common ways police try to accomplish this goal is to make up an accusation of some kind of struggle with the arresting officer and charge the suspect with a crime related to resisting arrest.
False arrest and beating at a Walmart
One of the more absurd cases of police misconduct in Atlanta’s recent history involved a police officer making a false arrest, beating the victim, and then filing a false report because he mistakenly believed the man stole a tomato from a Walmart.
The officer was working security duty in the retail store in 2014 when the incident occurred. As the victim was attempting to leave the store, the officer started yelling verbal commands at the victim and started to beat him with a baton almost immediately after the engagement began. The victim was trying to give an explanation about exchanging the tomato with a cashier after being overcharged. A later search of the victim uncovered a receipt which confirmed that there was no theft or criminal activity.
After this altercation, the victim was left with two broken bones in the leg. The officer in question also made an arrest of the victim that was justified by false police reports that alleged assault on an officer and interference with an investigation. The victim was initially booked into the local Fulton County jail, but released shortly afterward when the fake charges were dropped.
The guilty officer was later charged with two federal crimes in 2017 and sentenced to five years in prison. The victim has also retained a lawyer to file a civil lawsuit based on the false arrest, beating, and subsequent pain he still endures.
What can victims do to get help?
After a false arrest, the best thing to do is first speak with a criminal defense attorney to make sure the charges are dropped as quickly as possible. In most cases, there should be some kind of video evidence or witnesses nearby to confirm that a person was arrested without probable cause. Prosecutors also have an ethical duty to disclose any information and evidence that shows a person has been falsely accused. A criminal lawyer should be able to get the prosecutor assigned to the case to investigate and discover the misconduct shortly after the initial arrest.
Once a person is released from custody and the relevant exculpatory evidence has been uncovered a civil lawyer can begin the process of filing a lawsuit against the individual officer and their department. This can be done immediately and it does not matter if the officer is criminally charged or if the department disciplines them. There are certain federal laws meant to protect the rights of all citizens against improper use of authority by government action. These laws are relevant to both acts of violence by police against members of the public and false arrests.
When a victim suffers physical injuries as well as missed time from work or other problems caused by a false arrest, a financial value can be assigned to all of these problems caused by the officer. The total value will be stated by the lawyer in the initial complaint that is filed with the courts.
Get legal help in the Atlanta metro area
If you are in Atlanta or any nearby parts of Georgia, there are experienced lawyers who can speak with you about an incident involving the police. In most cases if an officer has mistreated you with a false arrest or physical violence, it will be possible to file a lawsuit and collect compensation.