Can You Sue the Police for Malicious Prosecution?
Just because a police officer arrests someone on suspicion of DUI, that does not mean the suspect actually broke the law. After all, police officers can and do make mistakes. So it is important for defendants to assert their rights in court when it comes to challenging the evidence against them.
But what if the police or prosecution simply fabricated a criminal charge without any evidence or probable cause? In legal terms, this can be considered “malicious prosecution.” And a person subject to such malicious prosecution can bring a civil rights claim under state and federal laws.
Georgia Man Pursues Lawsuit After Prosecutors Falsely Accused Him of DUI, Vehicular Homicide
An ongoing Georgia federal lawsuit, Fehrle v. Mayor, provides a case in point. This case arose from the events of a 2016 single-vehicle accident. The plaintiff in this case was driving in Savannah when he suddenly suffered a seizure and lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle subsequently flipped over several times and came to a stop, seriously injuring the plaintiff and killing his passenger.
The plaintiff was unconscious when paramedics arrived. At the hospital, medical staff administered the plaintiff several medications, including Fentanyl and Midazolam. These drugs subsequently showed up on a toxicology report obtained by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was investigating the accident. The officer in charge of the investigation then prepared a report stating the defendant was “under the influence” of Fentanyl and Midazolam when the accident occurred, which was false.
But based on this false report, the plaintiff was arrested and charged with numerous criminal offenses, including first-degree vehicular homicide and DUI. The plaintiff spent more than six months in jail until his criminal defense attorney was able to convince prosecutors that the plaintiff had suffered a seizure and was not under the influence of drugs.
At that point, according to the plaintiff, the prosecutors decided to charge the defendant again with vehicular homicide and related offenses based on a new theory–that the plaintiff had a “known seizure disorder” and was not taking prescribed medication. This, too, was false. The plaintiff had never been diagnosed with a seizure disorder prior to the accident. Eventually, the state conceded the point and dismissed the case against the plaintiff–nearly five years after the accident occurred.
The plaintiff subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Savannah and the officer who prepared the initial false toxicology report, alleging malicious prosecution. In July 2023, U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case. Baker said the plaintiff had sufficiently alleged that he “faced a continuous prosecution sufficient to support a malicious prosecution claim.” The judge further said the officer was not entitled to “qualified immunity” at this time based on the alleged violation of the plaintiff’s civil rights under federal law.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Today
Even in cases where law enforcement is not accused of fabricating evidence, it is still possible for mistakes or negligence in an investigation to produce baseless charges against a suspect. That is why you should always work with a Georgia Board Certified DUI lawyer who can review all of the evidence against you and represent you in court. Contact Hawkins Spizman today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.