As seasoned criminal defense lawyers, we know very well that sometimes people are arrested and charged with crimes that they didn’t commit. In those cases, the wrongly accused may want to sue the authorities for damages. In Bush v. City of Daytona Beach, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains some of the hurdles that may face a person seeking to sue a government agency for false arrest and other related claims.
Mr. Bush was under the age of 18 when he was arrested in Daytona Beach in connection with an armed home invasion. He was held for nearly five months, first at the Volusia County Detention Center and then the Volusia County Branch Jail. He was later released when a key witness in the case told police that Bush wasn’t responsible for the crime. Bush later claimed that he suffered mental and emotional anguish as a result of his time be was detained at the Volusia County Detention Center and then transferred to the Volusia County Branch Jail hind bars and that he also missed out on educational and employment opportunities during this time.
Bush sued the City of Daytona Beach, alleging claims for negligence, false imprisonment and violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983. He argued in particular that the City breached its duty to conduct a reasonable investigation before arresting him by failing to ensure that witness statements were reliable and failing to continue to conduct the investigation while he was in jail.
Dismissing the claims, the District Court held that each was time-barred under the relevant statutes of limitations, which provide deadlines for filing different types of claims. “[A] state law negligence claim against a municipality must be brought within four years from the date of accrual,” the Court explained. “Under Florida law, the cause of action accrues when the last element constituting the cause of action occurred.” That meant Bush’s negligence claim accrued when he was originally arrested in January 2008. He didn’t file suit, however, until May 2012. The Court further ruled that Bush couldn’t claim a “continuing violation” covering the entire time he was incarcerated because that theory applies only to continuing acts (the alleged shoddy investigation), not the continuing effects of those acts (his incarceration).
Similarly, the Court said the false imprisonment and Section 1983 claims were also time-barred by the respective four-year statutes of limitations applicable to those claims.
Even if the negligence claim had been timely, the Court further concluded that they would also be barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Generally, state and local governments are immune from suit unless the Florida legislature waives such immunity. “Defendant is entitled to sovereign immunity from claims of negligent investigation,” the Court determined.
Meanwhile, the Court said Bush couldn’t state claims for false imprisonment or under Section 1983 because his arrest was predicated on probable cause created by witness statements. “The receipt of information from someone who it seems reasonable to believe is telling the truth is adequate,” the Court explained.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Florida, it is important that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can mount an aggressive defense on your behalf. At Anidjar & Levine, our dedicated burglary attorneys have years of experience handling a wide variety of criminal cases. We work with clients to develop an effective legal defense in order to get charges dismissed or reduced.
Related blog posts: