Criminal defense lawyers may be more concerned with keeping their clients out of jail, and could resort to negotiating plea agreements even if their client didn't do it
New York, N.Y. (PRWEB) January 23, 2009
It can happen to anyone. It happened to a Manhattan doctor who was paraded in front of TV cameras in surgical scrubs after being accused of sexual abuse. It happened to a decorated former DEA agent who charged that Bronx cops arrested him for drug dealing after a run-in over a parking ticket. It happened to a Haitian immigrant who claims he was stopped and beaten by two police officers who thought he committed a robbery. As it turns out, none of these individuals were guilty of the crimes they had been accused of committing.
These reports, and hundreds of other stories like them, are the sad tales of people who became the unsuspecting victims of false arrest in New York City.
"While the number of false arrest claims in New York City have been trending downward steadily over the past few years," Richard Gurfein, a New York false arrest lawyer explained, "it doesn't change the fact that every day innocent people become the target of police and private security misconduct, such as false arrest and false imprisonment. And, when they do, it can mean big trouble for the victim."
Gurfein, who represented a New York man returning home to his Harlem apartment, and for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this innocent man was yanked from the back seat of a gypsy cab by the police and struck on the head with the butt end of a cop's service revolver, urges victims of false arrest to insist on being represented by an attorney as soon as the arrest takes place, and at all stages of the proceeding.
"If you are arrested, don't say anything," Gurfein advises. "The smartest move is to speak with a false arrest attorney so as not to jeopardize a possible false arrest claim after the resolution of the criminal complaint."
By definition, he said, a false arrest is a civil tort that consists of an unlawful restraint of an individual's personal liberty or freedom of movement by another purporting to act according to the law.
"The moment your liberty is restrained wrongly, a claim arises, "Gurfein said. "The value of a false arrest and/or false imprisonment claim, or a claim for malicious prosecution, will depend on the specific facts of the case."
This is all the more reason why Gurfein strongly advises people who are arrested to say nothing to anyone until they speak with a false arrest lawyer.
"In clear cases of false arrest or mistaken identify," he advises, "it is in the best interest of the victim to have a false arrest lawyer review the situation first and decide the proper course of action."
Gurfein said it is not uncommon for him, in situations where an innocent client is pending an arraignment, to get his client a criminal defense attorney who will make sure his client's personal injury claim will not be prejudiced.
"Criminal defense lawyers may be more concerned with keeping their clients out of jail, and could resort to negotiating plea agreements even if their client didn't do it" Gurfein explained.
"But remember this," he emphasized. "Any plea deal, which means the victim has agreed that they are guilty of something, means their arrest was legitimate. If that happens, the victim cannot file a claim for false arrest.
"My focus as a New York false arrest lawyer," he continued, "is on protecting any future claim that might arise out of the situation, including damages for mental anguish, shame and humiliation, injury to reputation, physical suffering or bodily injuries, loss of earnings or business, medical expenses and legal expenses in defending the prior charge. If the police didn't have reasonable grounds for the arrest in the first place and acted recklessly, willfully, wantonly or maliciously, the victim may even be entitled to punitive damages."
Clients need to realize that they always have a choice, Gurfein remarked.
"If your background and experience tells you the police can make a strong enough case for arresting you, which we call 'reasonable cause,' then the chances of winning a false arrest case are pretty small. Taking a plea deal to avoid jail may be the right choice for you. But if you take a deal it will end any chance you have of filing a civil suit for false arrest.
"You can either stand on your legal rights," he continued, "and not give up your right to be compensated for their wrongs, or plead out to some minor charge and avoid the risk of losing a criminal trial. Sure, it's not always an easy choice. But it's always a moral choice."
Gurfein noted that a Notice of Claim against a municipality, such as the City of New York, must be filed with the municipality within 90 days of the plaintiff's release from custody.
"The statute of limitations for false arrest and imprisonment generally is one year," he said. "But if the defendant is working for a city and is covered by the General Municipal Law, such as a police officer acting within the scope of his authority, then the 90-day period controls."