False accusation

There are many news articles about false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and the subsequent lawsuits that follow. But almost all of those lawsuits have one thing in common - the police are the ones that accused the then defendant of the crime. Either they saw an incident happen and arrested the wrong guy, or walked up to someone and arrested them without probable cause, etc.. But what do you do if the person who had you arrested was not the police, but rather an individual accuser?

This article in the Daily News here speaks about the arrest of a guy who falsely claimed that some teens had stolen his backpack. No one is entirely certain why he made it up, but he did. What are the rights of the people who were arrested because of this lie? Well in most cases, sadly, not much. The police have surprisingly little duty to investigate and are merely an instrument being used by a civilian to get someone arrested. Clearly, if the person requesting it has no relationship to the defendant, is objectively insane, objectively mentally challenged, or obviously lying, it would be difficult to argue that probable cause existed for the arrest because the act being claimed to have been done probably didn't happen. But those exceptions are rare. What if a store says you stole something and has you arrested, even though you didn't steal? Or a random person says you assaulted them even if you didn't?

Well, you can always sue those individuals for the tort of false arrest. But they may be immune. Of course in the case above, the liar was arrested for lying. If that charge sticks, the "teens" would have already established their burden of proof for false arrest and would likely win a case against this person. But does he have any money to collect? People typically don't. But municipalities typically do. That is why most people sue the police instead of the accuser.

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