False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of control

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Latest post 04-26-2009 1:19 AM by AARDVARC. 5 replies.
  • 04-20-2009 3:28 AM

    • D Lee
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    False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of control

    This is what happened to my girlfriend a few days ago, written in her own words.  Any advice would be helpful:

    As some of you may know, this week was the memorial at Arlington Cemetery for my cousin who passed away last year. I drove up to Baltimore to pick my parents up so I could be their chauffeur for the weekend. The trip to Baltimore from my house in Florida would be around 18 hours so I gave my self a day and half and planned to stay the night in South Carolina on my way.
     
    Tuesday night just as I passed into South Carolina from Georgia an unmarked suburban type vehicle came up behind me with it's blue lights on. It's was around 10pm and dark so I turned my hazards on, slowed to half the speed limit and proceeded to the next exit to stop. I was just over a mile from the exit when he came up behind me. The car came up on me twice like he was going to hit me which scared the crap out of me so I called 911. They confirmed it was an officer and I requested to continue to the next exit, it was less than a mile away at this point and his actions had scared me.
     
    When I got to the exit, the officer came up to my car very irate, ripped at the car door (if it was unlocked I think he would have yanked me out of my vehicle). He proceeded to arrest me because I did not stop a half a mile back when they confirmed he was an officer. I told him I proceeded to the exit because I did not feel safe and I told 911 my intentions.
     
    He later also told me if I would not have called 911, he would have ran me off the road before I got to the exit. He said if I was in Georgia they would not have given me a warning and just run me off the road. He also later stated that if I would have pulled off he would have either given me a reduced ticket or just a warning. (he said he clocked me at 88 in a 70, however, I also dispute this. I had my cruise on 78 and had been with the same pack of vehicles since Georgia) I do not know how my requesting to continue to the next exit, a half a mile, escalated his judgement from giving my a warning to arresting me.
     
    I spent the night in County jail, in an orange jumpsuit on a cold metal bunk bed. Not a pleasant experience. I face up to 3 years jail time if convicted of "failing to yield to a blue light". I will be fighting this both criminally and filing civilly for damages and costs.
     
    I do not know anyone in South Carolina and I was hoping you may know a good attorney that I can interview for my case. Please feel free to forward this using your discretion. I appreciate any help,
     
    Jen
  • 04-20-2009 5:14 PM In reply to

    • DPH
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    Re: False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of cont...

    From website: http://www.snelllaw.co...

    Failure to Stop for Blue Light
    S.C. Code § 56-5-750

    If you fail to timely stop for a law enforcement officer in South Carolina you could face the serious charge of Failure to Stop for Blue Light. Many times these offenses come not as a result of a failure to stop, but just when and how the officer believes you should. Frequently there may be a genuine question of whether or not a crime occurred at all.
    The penalties for Failure to Stop for Blue Light are as follows:

    • If no death or serious injury, imprisonment of ninety (90) days to three years
    • If serious injury, imprisonment of up to ten years
    • If death results, imprisonment of up to twenty five years

    The penalties are all enhanced for those with a prior conviction for this offense, and all offenders will face a mandatory license suspension.

    Sounds like you need to use the Simple Search to the right of this page to find an attorney.

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • 04-20-2009 5:42 PM In reply to

    • D Lee
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    Re: False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of cont...

    I did research the law, but she was on the phone with 911 and seeking advisement on if, because women are often raped, kidnapped, or killed by people impersonating officers, on if he was a cop.  That process took a few minutes and when they said he was a cop, due to the fact that he was trying to run her off the road even though she slowed down to 40mph and put her hazards on, she feared for her safety and said so to the 911 operator, she wanted to go to a well lit area as women are ADVISED to do (search news articles in south carolina).  While I appreciate your response, an officer has to be able to use his better judgement and this guy obviously did not. 

  • 04-20-2009 7:01 PM In reply to

    Re: False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of cont...

    There are two separate issues here. First is whether she is gulity of the crime charged. She probably is—certainly at the point she was told by 911 that it was indeed a real cop, she should have stopped the car promptly and not proceeded to the next exit. After all, at that point, she didn't need to fear that it was someone impersonating a cop out to rob or rape her.  The 911 operator does NOT control the officer or what goes on at the scene. Your girlfriend knew a cop wanted her to stop, and she should have done so. However, a sympathetic jury or judge might acquit her anyway given the circumstances. Or the prosecutor may give her a good deal on this to make it go away. I suggest she find a criminal defense attorney to assist her with the criminal charges. We don't give referrals here and lawyers don't come here looking for clients.

    The second issue is whether she can win any damages in a lawsuit. The answer to that is almost certainly no. The officer had a basis for the arrest—her failure to stop the car when he signaled her to stop. Thus, it was not a wrongful arrest or false imprisonment. Even if she's acquitted on the criminal charge, that doesn't automatically make the arrest wrongful. But certianly if she's convicted, she won't have any case to make for damages. In any event, she'll need to resolve the criminal case first. If she is acquitted, she can see a civil litigation attorney to see if she has a viable claim for damages. She probably doesn't, but I don't practice in SC and she will want to check with an attorney who does.

  • 04-26-2009 1:19 AM In reply to

    Re: False arrest & wrongful imprisonment? SC cop out of cont...

    There are VERY good reasons why officers want you to stop IMMEDIATELY. People who DON'T stop have tendencies to be doing things like trying to stash drugs, swallow drugs, or find or load their weapons. Once the officer knew that you'd been informed he was a REAL officer, and you still kept driving, that's EXACTLY what was going through the officer's mind and when that happens, you can expect the officer to be in a heightened state once you DO manage to obey and stop.

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