How to sue for false arrest, plus damages?

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How to sue for false arrest, plus damages?

My sister was arrested for DWI in NJ. She is fighting it and we believe she was not intoxicated while driving. At the time of her arrest she was following me and my wife home (she had out of state plates). The officer somehow claimed she was speeding (yet I wasn’t) and pulled her over. Making a long story short. She was cuffed and put in the patrol car. My wife was told that she couldn’t drive my sister’s car home for her and that it had to be impounded. They searched the car (found nothing) however my sister lost almost $200 in towing charges, plus her car sustained damage to the bumper from the tow. Should she speak with an attorney who specializes in traffic cases? In Mercer County, NJ.

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Criminal Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your sister should speak with an attorney...but she should focus MUCH more on fighting the DWI than on suing for false arrest. The reasons are two fold:

1) The impact of a DWI/DUI conviction will vastly exceed the value of anything she could recover, from what you write, from any kind of lawsuit; generally the amount you can recover is linked to the damage or costs you sustained, which seem to be a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile DWI will raise insurance premiums, can result in jail, fines, probation, having a lockout on the ignition, and/or mandatory classes of some kind, as well as resulting in a suspended, etc. license.

2) It is *very* hard to win any kind of false arrest case--the police have substantial immunity from them, except in the most egregious (deliberate wrongdoing or grossly negligent) situations, to enable them to do their job. And while your sister could try to sue for negligence in the car damage (which would be easier than suing for false arrest), its still difficult to sue the government for anything--and the cost of the lawsuit would likely exceed anything she could recover.

She should retain a lawyer with DUI/DWI experience and look first and foremost to fighting the charge.


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