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Elexecia Martin claims police officers should have known her young daughter wasn't involved in a fight back in April. After all, there was video of the incident, and not only is Martin's daughter not on it, but she can allegedly be heard off-camera, begging kids to stop. But that didn't stop police officers from arresting the girl at her elementary school in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, putting her in the back of a patrol car, and driving her to juvenile detention.
Now Martin is suing the officer involved, claiming her daughter's constitutional rights were violated and that she "suffered great mental anguish and emotional trauma as a result of the arrest and prosecution."
Martin's daughter was initially charged with not intervening in the off-campus fight. And although those charges were later dismissed, Martin's lawsuit claims Officer Chrystal Templeton falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted her daughter, in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights.
"Officer Templeton knew or should have known that there existed no probable cause to arrest" Martin's daughter, her lawsuit claims. "Based on her investigation, Officer Templeton knew or should have known that E.J. had no criminal responsibility for anything that happened in the video."
The suit also claims that Martin's daughter suffered emotionally during and after the arrest. The girl allegedly "begged for her mother. She cried. She vomited on the floor." And she continues to suffer from "severe shock, emotional distress, humiliation, sleeplessness, depression, and loss of enjoyment of life."
Suing the police for a false arrest can be tricky. Courts will often grant officers qualified immunity from lawsuits over actions taken in the course of their professional duties. However, section 42 U.S.C. 1983 of the federal statutes allows a citizen to sue police officers if they willingly violate the citizen's constitutional rights. In this case, Martin would need to prove that Officer Templeton knew, at the time of arrest, that she lacked probable cause to arrest the girl.
In addition, it can be difficult to prove emotional distress. The lawsuit will probably need to demonstrate the outrageousness of the arrest, the intensity of the impact it had on the girl, and the duration of any lasting effects. But arresting elementary-age children at school without any notice to parents and over the objections of other officers might just be bad enough for the suit to succeed.
False arrest lawsuits are becoming more and more common. If you feel that your rights were violated due to an unlawful arrest, you should contact an experienced injury attorney near you.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.