Can someone sue a police/sheriff’s department for being wrongfully stopped, handcuffed and having their property searched?

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Can someone sue a police/sheriff’s department for being wrongfully stopped, handcuffed and having their property searched?

My boyfriend was a suspect of a murder while he was in college. He has since graduated and moved back to his state of permanent residency. He was suspected due to driving the same color car, being a dark skinned man, and both he and the man that was arrested and convicted are both from the south. One day on his way to his internship, the sheriff’s department was notified by a local police department of his whereabouts. The sheriffs performed a traffic stop, handcuffed him and searched his property for approximately a half an hour. He is wondering what if anything he can do?

Asked on April 22, 2011 under Personal Injury, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Probably there is nothing your boyfriend can do:

1) The police (or sheriff, etc.) are not liable for simply making mistakes in whom they arrest--otherwise, they'd be liable all the time; instead, to establish liability against them, you have to generally show an intentional bad act or at least gross (extreme) negligence. However, based on what you write, the sheriff's department was not without reason for making the stop and arrest, so it's very unlikely that, even though they turned out to make a mistake, that you can establish the necessary gross negligent or intentionally bad conduct.

2) There is usually a very short period fo time to bring a claim against the government, including  the sheriff. If the stop happened while your boyfriend was in college but he's since graduated and moved, then it almost certainly happened too long ago to take legal action.


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