Seek out counsel immediately. Your goal is to serve a Notice of Claim within 90 Days.
Given the short statutory deadlines to file suit against the City of New York or other police entities - 90-day Notice of Claim; 1 Year and 90-day Statute of Limitations in State Court; 3 Year Statute of Limitations for Civil Rights violations in Federal Court - you must contact an attorney right away if you suspect you may have a claim for false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, battery or civil rights violations. Even if you're incarcerated awaiting trial, reach out to an attorney who handles these kinds of cases. Most will give you a free consultation. If you do not get to the lawyer within the first 90 days (even sooner, since most lawyers don't take any chances in the 11th hour), chances are the lawyer will not accept the case on a contingent fee basis.
False arrest is a claim of arrest without probable cause, i.e. the reasonable belief that you probably committed the crime. It's a rather light standard (contrasted against the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard needed for a criminal conviction), and it's often satisfied by a complaining witness or a grand jury indictment. If either of these exists, you do not have a claim for false arrest. If, however, there is no probable cause, you may have a claim for false arrest. If you're held in police custody for more than overnight and then released after the charges are dismissed, chances are an attorney will be willing to take your case and recover money for you. Just be careful about the Notice of Claim requirement, as you must serve a Notice of Claim within 90 days OF THE ARREST. Taking a guilty plea also is an admission of probable cause, while taking an A.C.D. (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal) is not and, therefore, preserves your right to sue for false arrest.
Malicious prosecution is a stronger claim than false arrest because it involves lack of probable cause plus malice. When the police arrest you and put you through the ringer just to give you a hard time, that's malicious. The problem is, in order to sue for malicious prosecution there must be a favorable outcome. Simply having the charges dropped or the prosecutor declining to prosecute is not enough. There must be a determination in your favor on the merits. That means either a "not guilty" verdict or a judge's dismissal on the record. Also, with malicious prosecution the 90-day Notice of Claim requirement runs from the Date of the Dismissal, not the date of the arrest. So if you've already served a Notice of Claim for false arrest, you must either serve another one for malicious prosecution or serve an Amended Notice of Claim adding a cause of action for malicious prosecution.
Assault, Battery or Civil Rights Violations
If the police use "excessive force" on you and cause you injuries, physical or psychological, you have a claim for assault, battery and civil rights violations. The police are held to a standard of a reasonable police officer under the circumstances confronted by the officer who allegedly assaulted you. It's what's known as a hybrid standard, combining a reasonable officer with the circumstances confronted by the officer in question. It's not an easy standard to meet, and often jurors are sympathetic to the officer if he's confronted with difficult circumstances, such as a bat wielding psychotic or an armed perp. Often, the value of these cases depends on the level of medical treatment received by the injured party, so it's important that timely medical treatment is administered. Again, a Notice of Claim should be served within 90 days of the arrest. See next section for Federal Civil Rights violations.
Federal Civil Rights Violations
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you can sue the police officers who injure you in the course of an arrest, conduct an unreasonable search and seizure or otherwise deprive you of a constitutional right for violation of your civil rights. You can also sue the City or other municipal entity, but in that case you must show a pattern or policy of behavior, which is often difficult if not impossible to prove. Such an action is often brought in Federal Court, as Federal Court is better geared up for such claims, and plaintiffs are able to obtain much more information in discovery than they could in state court. Sometimes, however, if a state court venue is more favorable, such as, for example, Bronx County, a federal civil rights action may be brought in state court.
Federal Civil Rights actions have a 3-year statute of limitations, but be careful not to wait too long, as your state claims are still governed by the year-and-ninety-days statute of limitations.
Additional resources provided by the author
Several attorneys who are listed on Avvo.com have legal guides relating to police liability and civil rights violations. You should consult those attorneys' legal guides as well, as they are often very qualified individuals, and they post varied information which may be helpful to your particular case.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on their profile in addition to the information we collect from state bar associations and other organizations that license legal professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do not.
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.