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Sue for OVI DUI false arrest / civil rights violation in a civil suit?

Yosemite National Park, CA |

On October 2007 I was arrested on suspicion of DUI while on my way to Yosemite, CA jail to pick my wife up after having herself been arrested for DUI about 4-5 hours previously. After much harassment, I was coerced into submitting to a field sobriety test after which I was told I could pick up my wife only if I submitted to a breathalyzer test if "the numbers were right." I was also told that if I did not submit voluntarily, there was enough evidence to warrant my arrest. I asked questions for clarification, and before I had a chance to reply, I was arrested, and taken to jail after submitting to a mandatory blood test which subsequently showed by blood alcohol level to have been 0.0%.

Since then, my DUI charges have been dropped, but the National Park Service continues to prosecute for a traffic violation such as running a stop sign or similar offense.

Any arrest on my record can have seriously negative repercussions in my career whether justified or otherwise.

Am I entitled to sue for false arrest DUI OVI, civil rights violations, false imprisonment, due process violation, etc? What rights were violated during the DUI stop? Can I initiate a civil case while the criminal case is ongoing? Is it possible to get the arrest off my record?

Thank you for your attention and advice.

Attorney Answers 3


It appears that the arrest here was on federal land. That usually means that the traffic and criminal matters will be brought before a federal magistrate or district judge as a bench (no-jury) trial. I would confirm that with a local attorney, but that is what would occur here in Georgia. The question of whether the officer can proceed upon the underlying charge is YES, assuming there is sufficient proof that the offense really occurred, versus the officer making a pullover based on a hunch or speculation of a possible offense. Many officers are under "quota" requirements wherein they must make X number of arrests per day or week or month, and the failure to do so can cause them to be reassigned to less desirable duty.

From a civil standpoint, if ALL charges are ultimately resolved in your favor, contact several experienced attorneys who handle civil litigation in your state to ask if the case has merit, AND whether the case will have a sufficient chance of financial recovery that the case can be reasonably pursued. Don't expect a civil attorney to take the case on a contingency fee IF there is no reasonable chance that he or she will see a financial return on his or her work. Someone skilled in litigation MAY be willing to help you for a fixed payment of some type, to be applied against a contingency.

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You gave an arrest date of October 2007. As it is currently April 2008, your arrest may be more than 180 days ago. If there is any possibility that you can sue a public entity, you must comply with the appropriate claims statute and file a claim with the public agency within 180 days of the injury.

I recommend that you immediately contact the arresting agency and request a claims form. Failure to file a timely claim usually precludes all lawsuits.

Without knowing more about your situation, it is difficult to predict the legal merits of your suit. I recommend that you consult an experienced civil rights attorney in the Central District of Calfiornia, the federal court district where your case is located.

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You may want to consider filing a motion for a factual finding of innocence with the court. As part of the motion, you would ask for a sealing and destroying of the arrest record. This should take care of your career concerns.

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