CASE STUDY 5: False Arrest of Innocent Woman
It’s unfortunate, but occasionally a case against the police department arises. In this instance Curan & Ahlers represented a woman who was falsely arrested when the police department acted too quickly, and not as they should in the normal course of their duty. A woman from Staten Island who was an upright citizen, who presented herself well and who was very involved in her church and community service, was having her car repaired. She went to pick up the car after closing and found that her car was not at the shop as she expected. She went home and called the police to reported the car as stolen, and gave her name for the report. A few hours later, her son came home and said he had picked up the car for her. She then called the police again to let them know that the car had turned up. The police then told her that she should be worried about the warrant that was out for her arrest. She told them that she had never been arrested in her life and that this must be a mistake. The police told her to come in the next day to speak with the DA.
Obediently, the woman went to the courthouse the next day to see the DA. A police officer then asked her her name, and when she answered, he put her in handcuffs and put her into an old, decrepit jail cell in the basement. In the cell along with her were drug addicts and prostitutes who proceeded to abuse her, hit her, and threaten her for the next six hours. The police finally realized that they had mistaken her for a woman from Brooklyn who was a prostitute and a drug addict, and who was 15 years younger than her. They then released her.
However, as a result of this mistake, the woman was severely traumatized and suffered from post-traumatic stress. She was unable to continue with her life and was afraid to leave her house, thinking that the police would make the same mistake again. She bolted herself in her room, installed surveillance cameras in her apartment, and was never the same. Curan & Ahlers took the case to trial and won a verdict for her, receiving enough money to help her overcome the resulting emotional problems. Just as important, it is hoped that her case helps the police department understand that they cannot simply throw people into jail without properly identifying them first by checking some basic information such as their date of birth and social security number, before subjecting them to such harsh and debilitating treatment.