Supreme Court Case Could Lead to Liability for Officers Making Arrests That Don’t Hold Up

The Supreme Court in early October heard arguments that could have ripple effects for law enforcement throughout the country.

At issue is a ruling by a lower court that if upheld, would make officers personally liable for the decisions made on duty. The case in question involves a party in Washington, D.C., where a number of party-goers were arrested for trespassing. It was later determined that the participants didn’t know they were uninvited guests, and charges were dropped. They subsequently sued for being arrested, and a lower court held the police personably liable for $1 million in damages and legal fees.

Arrests are made and charges are dropped for a number of reasons; many have little or nothing to do with an officer’s actions. Often it is up to the prosecutor’s office to make the decision to pursue a case. A city or county attorney may simply decide not to file charges due to insufficient evidence, or for political implications.

Twenty-six states and the federal Justice Department are weighing in with a strong warning that allowing the lower-court ruling to stand would have “vast consequences” for law enforcement everywhere. We will continue to monitor this story and keep you updated.

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