Wrongful Arrest

Wrongful Arrest / False Arrest Attorney / Lawyer in Portland, Oregon


Sometimes the term “false arrest” is used interchangeably with the term “wrongful arrest.” Below are some answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the issue of wrongful / false arrests:

When is an arrest lawful?
An arrest is lawful when there is a valid warrant. Generally, searches and seizures inside a home are “presumptively unreasonable” in absence of a valid warrant or justification under ORS 133.310:

Authority of peace officer to arrest without warrant. (1) A peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any of the following:
(a) A felony.
(b) A misdemeanor.
(c) An unclassified offense for which the maximum penalty allowed by law is equal to or greater than the maximum penalty allowed for a Class C misdemeanor.
(d) Any other crime committed in the officer’s presence.
(2) A peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant when the peace officer is notified by telegraph, telephone, radio or other mode of communication by another peace officer of any state that there exists a duly issued warrant for the arrest of a person within the other peace officer’s jurisdiction.

What Constitutes a Wrongful Arrest in the State of Oregon?
In circumstances where there is an arrest without a warrant, police officers have a duty to show that the arrest was made under circumstances warranted by law. This means that an officer must have probable cause to arrest you. Additionally, “Any officer who unjustifiably detains a prisoner for an unreasonable amount of time without a warrant may be liable for false arrest.” Brown v. Meier & Frank Co., 160 OR 608, 86 P2d 79 (1939).

What must I prove in order to show that I was wrongfully arrested?
In Ross v. City of Eugene, 151 Or App 656 at 663, 950 P2d 372 (1997), the Court defined the elements of false arrest:
1. Defendant must confine plaintiff;
2. Defendant must intend to accomplish the act that causes confinement;
3. Plaintiff must be aware of the confinement; and
4. The confinement must be unlawful.

Can people other than police officers sometimes be liable for a wrongful arrest?
Yes. Sometimes a store manager, security guard or private citizen will make a wrongful arrest.

In general, when can the police enter a building conduct an investigation and make an arrest without a warrant?
Judicially recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement for an arrest include “Exigent Circumstances” and the “Emergency Aid Doctrine .” Even though the police officer can enter the building and conduct an investigation, he/she still needs probable cause to make an arrest.

What kinds of circumstances are considered exigent circumstances?
Under the exigent circumstances exception, however, a warrantless entry and search of a home will be excused when “the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative.” Warden vs. Hayden, 387 US 294; 87 S Ct. 1642, 19 L Ed2d 782 (1967). When officers rely on exigent circumstances to justify entry and search of a home, two requirements must be met:
1) Probable cause to search the home must exist at the time of the initial entry; and
2) An exigent circumstance sufficient to excuse compliance with the warrant
requirement must exist at the time of the entry into the home.

What is the Emergency Aid Doctine?
The “emergency aid doctrine” is distinct from the “exigent circumstances” exception to the warrant requirement because the former does not require probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. To conduct a search under the auspices of the emergency aid doctrine,” four criteria must be met :
1) The police must have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an emergency and an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life;
2) The emergency must be a true emergency- the officer’s good faith belief alone is insufficient;
3) The search must not be primarily motivated by an intent to arrest or seize evidence; and
4) The officer must reasonably suspect that the area or place to be searched is associated with the emergency and that, by making a warrantless entry, the officer will discover something that will alleviate the emergency.

The emergency aid doctrine is currently limited to situations in which a person’s health or safety is in danger. “[A] ‘true emergency’ exists if the circumstances present grounds for an officer to reasonably believe that immediate police action is required. The officer must necessarily make that assessment in the light of the circumstances as they were at the time the warrantless entry was made.” State vs. Martofel, 151 Or App 249, 252; 948 P2d 1253 (1997); and State vs. Agnes, 118 Or App 675, 679; 848 P2d 1237 (1993). In Bridewell 306 Or 231 at 235, the Oregon Supreme Court has also considered how long the officers waited after they received information about a potential problem in determining whether an emergency existed when police acted.

Additionally, the Oregon Court of Appeals, in State vs. Jones, 45 Or App 617, 620-21; 608 P2d 1220, recognized that the emergency aid doctrine is “founded upon the actions of police officers which are considered reasonable under the circumstances that faced the officer at the time of entry. *** The inquiry is whether the facts available to the officer would lead a prudent and reasonable officer to see a need for immediate action to protect life or property.”

What is a civil hold?
In Oregon, ORS 430.399(1) also allows for civil detention/arrest as follows: “Any person who is intoxicated or under the influences of controlled substances in a public place may be taken or sent home or to a treatment facility by the police.”

What should I do if I am wrongfully arrested?
Stay calm. I know that this is easier said than done. Politely ask the officer why you are being arrested. If it is an issue of mistaken identity, offer to show your identification, if applicable. Under some circumstances you should say nothing and state that you wish to have an attorney present before questioning and that you wish to invoke your right to remain silent. If the matter can clearly be cleared up by showing appropriate court documents that have not entered into the electronic system, offer to show the officer your documentation.

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