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Can I sue if I’ve been wrongfully arrested?

Arrests are never a pleasant occurrence. It becomes a whole lot worse if the arrest wasn’t warranted.

What can people do if they have been arrested and there was no justification for it?

To answer that question, it must first be defined what a wrongful arrest is, and who is allowed to arrest a person.

If a person’s freedom has been intentionally or wrongfully limited, or restricted by another person against their consent, that is considered false or wrongful arrest.

Who can arrest me?

People can seek recourse both against the police or another person for a wrongful arrest.

A person can make a “citizen’s arrest”, which is where someone arrests a person who is committing a crime. The police and government advise for people only to take this action when there is no other recourse, because of the consequences that could follow.

If a person was wrongfully arrested by another and physically restrained, that could spell trouble for the person doing the arresting as they still have a duty, like the police, only to arrest another person if there is reasonable belief that the person committed a crime.

I’ve been unlawfully arrested and want to sue

Yes, you can sue. Having said that, it’s not that easy a case to make. If the police had reasonable belief that you committed a crime, even where you were wrongfully arrested, a judge may not find them liable.

In order for the police to be considered to have falsely or wrongfully arrested someone, they have to be considered to have done one of these two factors:

  • Acted without authority; or
  • Acted beyond the scope of their powers.

It’s simply not enough to accuse the police of false arrest if they did have reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime and if neither of these two factors is in place.

While police officers have discretion when it comes to arresting civilians they have to use it wisely.

Neither the police nor anyone else can arbitrarily deprive a person of their freedom, because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. In other words, there has to be a good reason for the arrest. If there isn’t, then the civilian can take them to court. If a person was arrested by a police officer the person can also file a complaint against them with the proper police commission.

If you think you have been wrongfully arrested consult a lawyer.

Read more:

What You Need to Know About Making a Citizen's Arrest

Police Powers: Stops and Searches