False Arrest

A claim for false arrest or false imprisonment is based upon an act that intentionally causes a person to be unlawfully detained. A person is detained when she is deprived of her freedom of movement such as by confinement or restraint. Whether a particular detention was unlawful depends upon the circumstances. In cases where a person is detained without an arrest warrant, there is a presumption that the detention was unlawful.

A victim of false arrest or false imprisonment may recover damages for mental suffering and for pecuniary losses such as lost wages. In cases involving the police, a victim may be able to recover expenses incurred in securing discharge from custody, including reasonable attorney fees. Punitive damages may also be available in particularly egregious cases.

A claim for false arrest or false imprisonment generally must be brought within one year of the date on which the claim accrues.

For information about other civil claims recognized in the District of Columbia, click here. For information about how to use this guide, click here.

[Sources: Douglas C. Melcher, Tort Claims and Defenses in the District of Columbia § 3 (2014), and legal authorities cited therein.]