Killeen, TX asked in Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Personal Injury and Civil Litigation for Texas

Q: Falsely accused of theft of property, can I sue police department and the company?

I was charged with shoplifting from a worldwide company. Loss prevention falsely identified me after doing a Facebook search. This is now on my record. I have been labeled as a theif! Ive missed several employment opportunities, I had to move back in with my parents because all agencies have denied my rental applications, and spending time in jail are just some of the damages I have encountered. After going through discovery packet, I feel both the company and local police department should be held liable. Police failed and dismissed all of my attempts at an investigation and there were absolutely no evidence or grounds for them to issue a warrant for my arrest.

1 Lawyer Answer
Kiele Linroth Pace
Kiele Linroth Pace
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Austin, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: If all charges relating to the arrest were dismissed then you will eventually become eligible to petition for an expunction. An expunction is the means for clearing your arrest record. There are a couple of situations where you can go ahead with an expunction without waiting for the statute of limitations to elapse, for example, if you can prove that the case was dismissed due to lack of probable cause or if the prosecutor is willing to recommend an early expunction. An expunction must be filed in the same jurisdiction where the case originated so you should hire a LOCAL attorney who already has an idea of what the local prosecutors will and won't do in a situation like yours.

Lawsuits to recover monetary damages are the domain of CIVIL court rather than criminal court. However, it may be difficult to find a civil attorney to take the case unless you can show the potential for a huge win. The reason for that is they are typically paid a percentage of the award and if they win and nothing if they lose. If the potential damages are small or difficult to calculate then it might not be worth the risk of actually losing money taking the case.

Lawsuits against the police are often filed in federal civil court under 42 US Code § 1983 but you should be aware that law enforcement has immunity unless it can be proved that they acted out of malice. Simply showing that they did a bad job probably won't be enough. There is nothing inherently improper about seeking a warrant based on one person's statement but it might get interesting if the officers had reason to believe the person making the accusation was not a credible person. Talk to a federal civil rights attorney if you want to pursue this possibility. This attorney doesn't have to be local because this gets into federal law.

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