Can You Sue the City of Fairfax for Illegal Detention?

By Peter DePaolis

Illegal detention is a serious civil rights infringement that could lead to lasting damages to a victim’s reputation, career and personal wellbeing. If a law enforcement officer recently illegally detained you in Fairfax, Virginia, you may have a case against the city. A civil lawsuit against the government may end in compensation for your damages, including both economic losses you suffered and noneconomic pain and suffering.

If you’ve been wrongfully detained in Fairfax, Virginia or surrounding communities, consult with one of our Fairfax personal injury attorneys today learn more to learn the legal options available to you.

Your Right to Freedom From False Imprisonment

Recently, the lines between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Fairfax County Police Department blurred in an event the police chief called “unacceptable.” The chief took a police officer off enforcement duty after the officer reported a driver involved in a car accident to ICE. It is not within the Fairfax County Police Department’s jurisdiction or authority to enforce federal laws, including immigration laws. The chief said the officer in question violated the department’s longstanding policy and, in doing so, illegally deprived someone of freedom.

In this case of illegal detainment, ICE released the driver from custody after three hours and gave the driver an ankle monitor. While it is unclear whether the illegally detained driver will press charges, the driver may have this right depending on the facts of the case. False imprisonment is a breach of every American citizen’s fundamental rights. False imprisonment refers to confining or restraining another person willfully, without the victim’s consent, and without legal authority to do so. It is a crime as well as a civil tort.

Illegal detainment specifically refers to the invalid use of legal authority – such as that of a police officer – to detain or arrest someone without a warrant to do so. It does not matter how long the illegal detainment lasts; if the victim suffers a deprivation of personal liberty, he or she could have grounds for a case against the arresting party or the government. If the City of Fairfax or one of its employees, such as a police officer, commits this crime, the victim may have the right to file a claim against the government.

How to Bring a Claim Against the City of Fairfax

The Virginia Supreme Court defines false imprisonment as the direct restraint of one person by another without legal justification. If this sounds like the circumstances of your recent arrest or detainment, you may have a claim against the city for breaching your rights. Whether you are a born U.S. citizen, a documented immigrant or an undocumented immigrant, you have the right to freedom from illegal detention. Contacting a lawyer can make the process of bringing a claim against the government easier for you and your family in Fairfax.

  1. Gather evidence. You or your attorney will need to collect evidence that proves the law enforcement officer did not have legal justification for your arrest or detention. This may include police body camera footage, an incident report, eyewitness testimony or comparable illegal detention cases.
  2. File notice of the claim. State law requires any claimant to give advanced notice to a city or town of the intent to file a tort action. The notice must be in writing and include details such as the date and location the illegal detention occurred. You will have six months from the date of the incident to file this notice.
  3. Take your case to court. If the City of Fairfax refuses to resolve your illegal detention case with a settlement, your lawyer may have to take the defendant to court. A personal injury trial could result in payment for your economic and noneconomic damages if your lawyer is successful.

It is possible to file a lawsuit against the City of Fairfax for illegal detainment, false arrest or false imprisonment. Your right to file depends on the circumstances of the incident. A lawyer can review your case to verify whether your recent arrest had no legal justification. If this is true, your attorney could help you file the correct paperwork to start a claim for financial relief from the city responsible for your detention. A lawyer can help you hold a government entity accountable for illegal detention in Fairfax.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.