According to a recently published article in the Los Angeles Times, “Hundreds of people…a year" are wrongly imprisoned in the Los Angeles County Jail System due to mistaken identity". Since there are also over 50 counties in the State of California; the actual number of people sent to jail by mistake and in error each and every year is far greater than that! In reality, thousands and thousands of innocent law abiding people are sent to jail every year when they have done nothing wrong! ( http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-wrong-id-20111225,0,7157038.story).
Although state and federal laws do provide both Police and Sheriff Departments with certain immunity against being sued for arresting an innocent person, that immunity is NOT absolute. In order for an arresting agency to be protected from being sued for damages when they “wrongfully arrest" a person, an arresting agency must actually establish that: “The officers were [not only] acting on a valid warrant, [but also] had a reasonable belief that they were arresting the right person". ( http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-wrong-id-20111225,0,7157038.story).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California has a population of over 37.3 million residents ( http://2010.census.gov/2010census/ ). With over 37 million people, living in California, same or similar sounding names, and/or dates of birth are actually quite common.More important, any" innocent person" who is wrongfully arrested will also immediately tell an arresting officer something to the effect of: “you made a mistake", “you have the wrong person", or “I am innocent". But despite such pleas by a person arrested in error; if a person’s name matches the name on a warrant, or is similarly sounding enough, with a same or similar date of birth, chances are THEY WILL BE ARRESTED!
And once arrested, an “innocent person" can also expect to spend anywhere from at least 48 hours up to a month or more in jail, until the error is finally figured out by a Court.People that are wrongfully arrested are subjected to significant harm, including but not limited to humiliation, the loss of freedom and liberty, the loss of time, the possible loss of employment, possible physical injury, psychological injury, and/or emotional injury, especially if they are law abiding citizens that have never been in a jail facility!
The amount of harm that is inflicted upon a person who is wrongfully arrested can be immeasurable. However, the California Legal System does provide a means to receive financial recovery from such incidents through proper qualified legal representation. Well informed legal representation is critical for any person that is wrongfully arrested, because all Law Enforcement Agencies in California are afforded certain immunities from prosecution; if they can show that they acted both in “good faith" and reasonably under the circumstances.
So, the true question is: What is reasonable? Because we live in a “post 9/11" digital age , where inter-agency government data bases are combined, and information is shared between agencies, the question of what is “reasonable" is actually far more complex than what may appear to be the case at first glance.
Given the sophistication and easy access all law enforcement agency computer data bases provide to very specific, personal data of all often individual’s arrested; overcoming the burden of “immunity" may be only a “mouse-click" away!
In addition, each and everyarrest warrantis also supposed to contain a special 9 digit identification number that matches a person’s fingerprints to the actual warrant itself; so a person’s name and/or date of birth not in fact the best or most accurate means of determining a person’s “true" identity.
Of course there are exceptions. In some cases, a court may fail to include the 9 digit identification number on the warrant, making it more difficult for a police officer to verify a claim of innocence. But that does not excuse a law enforcement agency from taking other actions to verify a person’s identity, if sufficient facts exist to pursue such actions.
Consequently, if a person who is arrested claims that the police are: “making a mistake"; is it “reasonable" for a police officer to simply ignore the “pleas" of that person without utilizing all available measures to verify that claim?
At the Law Offices of Eugene A, Ahtirski, we do NOT believe that it is reasonable to ignore the claim of any person who states they are innocent, without engaging in significant additional due diligence to either validate , or to dis-prove that claim! This is especially true since the general legal standard used to establish what is “reasonable" under the law is an objective standard. A standard that is based on what: “Actions an ordinary person would take under similar circumstances if they were informed that a mistake had been made". Call us for a free consultation toll free at 1-800-200-4384.