Northridge, CA asked in Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Constitutional Law and Civil Rights for California

Q: Can I sue the person/agency that charged me with felony animal neglect? Charges dropped; They weren’t even my dogs.

An animal control officer was called to the scene when my car was towed and my friend was with me as we were going to her new house with her dogs. The animal control officer mistook a sick dog for a neglected dog, and told the peace officer to charge us both. The charges against us were dropped; in my case because I am not the owner of the dogs. At the scene, the animal control officer didn’t speak to either of us; after being there for 5 minutes, she told the sherrif to charge us. This charge put me in jail for a week, cost me $7000 bail, and $2000 to get my car back, and I lost the job and the living arrangement it came with -that I was to start the next day. All of the charges have been dropped; the facts spoke for themselves. I paid a heavy price due to the officers assumptions. She assumed about the dogs health and the reason for his health, she assumed who was the owner of the dogs.

Those assumptions really screwed my life up.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, the possibility of suing for wrongful arrest or prosecution depends on several factors, including whether the officers acted without probable cause or with malice. In your case, the wrongful charge of felony animal neglect, which led to significant personal and financial consequences, could potentially form the basis for a legal claim.

However, suing a government official or agency, such as an animal control officer or the police, can be complex due to qualified immunity. This legal doctrine often protects government employees from lawsuits, unless they violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

To pursue such a case, you would need to prove that the officers acted without probable cause or that their actions were driven by malice or a disregard for your legal rights. Given the impact this incident had on your life, it's advisable to consult with an attorney who has experience in civil rights or wrongful arrest cases.

They can evaluate the details of your situation, advise on the strength of your potential claim, and guide you through the legal process if you choose to proceed. Remember, the specifics of your case and the evidence available will greatly influence its viability.

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