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What is the statue of limitations in California for false arrest? including use of force?

Los Angeles, CA |

Some background: I was arrested after an owner of a cafe told police I stole magazines from his cafe. I had permission to take said magazines from two of his employees (these were used magazines lying around the cafe for the enjoyment of his customers). The accusations were made because I did not return his advances. I was arrested, even though the employees had told both the owner and the police that they gave me permission to borrow the magazines. Also, some of the magazines returned to the owner were my property. This incident occurred about 1.5 years ago.

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

Civil rights claims against government agencies generally need to be filed within 6 months of the incident, and keep in mind that officers have quite a bit of discretion in making an arrest. The owner of the store probably convinced the officers that you had stolen property belonging to the store in his presence, and that the officers believed the owner (especially if you were not there to offer your side of the story at the time such statements were made) and the officers based their arresting authority on his authority to arrest (see, e.g., People v. Sjosten (1968) 262 Cal.App.2nd 539 - private citizens may delegate their arresting authority to police officers - check out this Citizens' Arrest guide, too (http://le.alcoda.org/publications/files/CITIZENSARREST.pdf)). If the DA brought charges against you and you prevailed (no plea bargain, conviction, etc.), that could change your options a bit, but more facts would be needed to do a full analysis in that regard, and it is likely too late to do anything about it. Also keep in mind that if the owner came to possess your magazines through this process, you could go after him for the tort of conversion (SOL of 3 years), although your damages wouldn't be very much. Good luck! : )

Asker

Posted

Thanks for your response, Logan. I found out, through an employment background check that there were pending charges related to the incident. Thankfully, I saved the phone number of one of the employees working that night, and asked him to write a statement as to what happened. In his statement he notes that he told the owner he gave me permission to borrow the magazines PRIOR to the owner flagging down a police car, and that even after the police had shown up, the employee again told both the owner and the police that he gave me permission. The employee also mentioned that the police tried to pressure him to identify me and he refused to do. Could I sue the owner for false allegations leading to my arrest?

Asker

Posted

Also - apparently, the cops actually convinced the owner to file charges, because (as the employee states in his report) "they were already there" (and they had used force, called a helicopter, and 4 police cars for backup). Either way, neither the cops nor the owner acted with full integrity.

Logan Michael Fairfax

Logan Michael Fairfax

Posted

Sounds like quite the situation. Sorry that happened to you. A defamation suit against the owner would be time-barred. Why are you pursuing this 1.5 years later, especially when you took the time back then to get written statements from employees, etc? I think you waited too long. : (

Asker

Posted

I thought it was behind me. I went to the arraignment, but they couldn't find my case (turned out they got my address & date of the incident wrong) - so I thought the DA realized how ridiculous the whole thing. During the time period it happened, I was severely depressed (and actually, my dog, who is legally my emotional support animal, was with me when it happened and was taken to the doggy equivalent of jail. It was horrible - While in jail, I was panicked someone would make a mistake and she'd be put down or given to someone else). I didn't want to deal with it - things were bad as is; so I let it go. Last week, I was going through a background check for a job I applied - and it turned out there was a warrant for my arrest.

Asker

Posted

I got the statement from the employee last week - after I found out about the warrant. Thankfully, I saved his number (I called the cafe shorty after the incident to ask him what happened, and got his name & phone number)

Logan Michael Fairfax

Logan Michael Fairfax

Posted

Hmmmm...sounds terrible...I'm so sorry to hear all of that. It sounds like your legal counsel at your arraignment might not have done an adequate job of explaining things to you, including that your case was not being dropped by the DA. Or perhaps it was adequately explained to you that you needed to show up to court at another date/time and you missed it? In any event, you need to take care of that warrant asap. Best of luck to you.

Asker

Posted

I didn't have an attorney. I'm working with a criminal attorney - and got the warrant recalled. Upon the conclusion of the criminal case, I'd like to pursue a civil case if there's a likelihood I can win and recover the damages (car impounded, dog in-pounded, current attorney fees, wages lost, and emotional distress) that occurred as a result of the false allegations made by the owner and insufficient due diligence of the police.

Posted

From what I read in your comments with Mr. Fairfax, it sounds like you'd have a significant uphill battle trying to bring the claim now even if the statute of limitations hasn't expired.

Posted

You may need to provide some more information about your case. From what you've written, it shows the incident occurred 1.5 years ago. Did you file a claim against the department within 6 months of the arrest? Did you ever plead guilty to the charges or were you given a negotiated deal with the District Attorney's office? Was the case dismissed? You may want to consult a police misconduct practitioner to discuss your issues since the first half-year after your arrest is critical.