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$390,000 Settlement in Unlawful Arrest Warrant

New Jersey’s Essex County settled a claim against it that alleged a prosecutor was “plainly incompetent” for procuring and executing an arrest warrant. The case settled for $390,000 prior to a damages trial.

The plaintiff’s false arrest claim came after the Essex county prosecutor’s office investigator obtained an arrest warrant to arrest the plaintiff at her home on drug charges. As part of a much larger operation that involved numerous arrests, officers charged into the plaintiff’s home in a pre-dawn raid. The plaintiff, who had given birth to her third child several weeks earlier via C-Section, was knocked down, pushed forcefully against her living room wall, and hauled away in handcuffs in front of her young children, who were screaming in fright.

The plaintiff was transported to jail in a police car that traveled at a high rate of speed, tossing her about the seat and causing bleeding in the area of the C-section scar. After five hours in custody, the plaintiff was released because she was mistakenly arrested. Her expert testified the incident caused permanent post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The investigation that led to the arrest warrant discovered cell phone conversations between a male drug distributor and a female named “Christine,” who worked at a bar. Phone records and a DMV search led the investigator to identify the plaintiff as the Christine E. who worked at the bar. The home address for the plaintiff was placed on the warrant.

Plaintiff experts said the investigators failed to fulfill the basic requirement of physical surveillance of “Christine,” who had different physical characteristics than the plaintiff. Additionally, proper procedure would be to have the warrant returnable to the suspect’s place of employment rather than the home residence to assure proper execution.

On summary judgment proceedings, the trial court held as a matter of law that there was an absence of probable cause for issuing the underlying warrant and that the investigating officer was not entitled to qualified immunity. The $390,000 settlement was made on March 7, 2007; it apparently involved “a very substantial award for attorney fees.” See: Doe v. Essex County, New Jersey, Essex County, Docket No: ESX-C-1933-4

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Related legal cases

Doe v. Essex County

Doe v. Essex County

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