Jerry L. Steering is a Police Misconduct Attorney who sues police officers and deputy sheriffs for false arrest, among other things, excessive force and malicious criminal prosecutions.
Mr. Steering also defends some regular criminal cases, and bogus criminal actions; especially “Contempt of Cop” “resistance offenses”. Mr. Steering has also represented the victims of government misconduct (i.e. the United States Department of Justice in places as far away as Alabama and Washington, D.C.) He also has been a Member of the State Bar of Georgia since 1984, and practiced law in Athens, Georgia after attending law school there at the University of Georgia. Mr. Steering has been defending bogus criminal cases brought by police agencies in California, since 1986.
The following is basic information on what a false arrest is and why there are so many false arrests in America today and the use of the tools of a false arrest in protecting police officers and their employing agencies / entitles from civil liability and internal discipline.
|Police Misconduct Specialties:|
FALSE ARRESTS GENERALLY; THEIR IMPACT ON INNOCENTS.
Unfortunately, the natural American’s reaction to hearing that you are accused of a crime is to presume that you actually committed some crime, or otherwise acted unlawfully, anti-socially, dishonorably or despicably. That you are the bad guy. That you crossed some known barrier that separates good, moral and reasonable conduct, and acted contrary to “the social contract”; that you acted unreasonably and immorally. That is the stigma that you now bear. No matter what you do, no matter what happens to your cause, the fact of your arrest by the police, places you in a different category in the minds of all of us; to one degree or another. You may win millions of dollars for what the government has done to you, but you will, in perpetuity, have an arrest record, notwithstanding any lack of criminal or even unreasonable conduct by you.
Don’t get too exited about an expungement of you misdemeanor conviction pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 1203.4 (California expungement of misdemeanor conviction statute.)
Notwithstanding anything that you are told by your cousin or pals, or even a judge or lawyer, nothing in the language of Section 1203.4 actually states that you may withhold the fact of your now expunged conviction, from another. So, for example, if you get your misdemeanor conviction expunged pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 1203.4 , you still have to divulge the conviction when applying for employment with a government agency, or for any sort of government licensure. Moreover, these convictions now live in private databases that one can find online within seconds (just Google criminal background checks, and see how many avenues of obtaining that information exist; instantly.) Also, if you sue for false arrest or for unreasonable force, when you fill-out that job application, and question 6 asks for your arrests (to which, pursuant to Section 1203.4 you answer “No”), how are you going to answer question number 7; have you ever been a party to a lawsuit. If “Yes”, please explain? Are you going to say in question 6 that you’ve never been arrested, and then in question 7, state that you sued another for false arrest?
FALSE ARRESTS IN AMERICAN LIFE; THE POLICE ARE DRUNK WITH POWER BECAUSE THE PROSECUTOR BACKS HIS CLAIM OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT BY YOU, USUALLY WITHOUT QUESTION.
There is a modern day epidemic of police violating your Constitutional rights (i.e unreasonably seizing and searching you or your property, using unreasonable force on you), and thereafter, procuring your bogus criminal prosecution to protect themselves from civil liability, from internal discipline, and, in some cases, even from criminal prosecution by state or federal authorities. When the police violate you, they have crossed that line and there is no going back. They don’t admit fault and they don’t apologize. If the police use any sort of substantial force upon you, 99% of the time you are going to jail; innocent or not. This is no joke or some lefty propaganda. This is reality.
1) violation of Cal. Penal Code §§ 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer; a crime that any imaginative prosecutor can twist to justify your arrest;
2) Cal. Penal Code § 69 (dissuading / preventing public officer from performing duty of office via threats of or use of violence, a “wobbler”. Section 69 arrests are supposed to be for situations such as threatening the court clerk with violence if they enter judgement against you, or preventing the local municipal Code Enforcement Officers from executing an Administrative Search Warrant by threatening to harm them if they enter, or threatening a meter maid with violence if she gives you that parking ticket. Section 69 is the booking crime de jour in the police profession. Because Section 69 can be charged as a felony, the police can hold you on bail; usually $20,000.00 or so. Some people either can’t pay bail and need to get out of jail, so when they are whisked to court and arraigned and given a public defender, they are often offered a plea deal to a misdemeanor of some sort, simply because of the felony charge; not because of any guilt by the defendant. The Section 69 arrest worked. Now the victim can’t sue the officer violator because his plea now precludes any civil claims for his false arrest that he might have had. See, Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
Section 69 prosecutions are terribly abused in recent times. The Deputy DAs enjoy being able to shake down the innocent victim of police false arrests and beatings with felony prosecutions for crimes that are so vague and ambiguous that almost any conduct can get you convicted; especially if the jury either doesn’t like you or care about your pesky constitutional rights. Most people really don’t.
3) Cal. Penal Code § 242/243(b) battery on a peace officer (i.e. the suspect struck my fist with his jaw) which 99% of the time is battery by a peace officer. Not to worry of you are the Constable. If you hit of use unreasonable force on another, you have to justify that use of force; especially if the civilian has a black eye. You can’t just not arrest him. Not to worry officer. Just charge your victim with battery upon a peace officer. If a recording turns up (or a bus load of nuns who were eyewitnesses) that clearly shows that the officer was the batterer, not you, they may just dismiss the criminal action against you. If the recording isn’t that clear, be prepared to be extorted by the District Attorney’s Office into giving up your right to sue the police by taking a plea agreement to some de minimis criminal offense, such as disturbing the peace That way the cops won’t be mad at the Deputy DA for not persecuting his victim.
Some young turk Deputy DAs are so political and internally (DAs Office) ambitious dissuading / preventing public officer from performing duty of office via threats of or use of violence, a “wobbler”. Section 69 arrests are supposed to be for situations such as threatening the court clerk with virthat can be 2) Section 148(a)(1)
When you couple that modern mindset of the police profession with that “awesome power” that the Supreme Court endowed the police with in 1968 (the power to detain on less than probable cause to arrest; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)) you have a quasi-police state. The police have turned from our protectors to our oppressors. The police simply have too much power, and many of them just can’t handle that awesome power. They are simply “drunk with power”
MOST ARRESTS ARE AT THEIR CORE, POLITICAL.
Police Department’s are not law enforcement agencies. They only selectively arrest others for violation of certain statutes that they choose to enforce. Today’s police officers are not the kind, helpful and honest neighbor beat cops of years gone past. For example, police agencies do not prosecute their own. They just don’t. So, even though using unreasonable force on arrestees is a California state misdemeanor (Cal. Penal Code § 149) and federal felony (42 U.S.C. § 242), almost no prosecutorial agency in the United States prosecutes police for using unreasonable force upon prisoners. Rather, the person who the police officer is using force upon is the one who will be criminally prosecuted (i.e. the suspect struck my fist with his jaw.) Moreover, they don’t prosecute persons for perjury; they just don’t, unless you are a politician or a welfare recipient. The police know that they can do almost anything to any civilian and so long as there is no video recording, their agency will not only back them, but will also get the victim of that police abuse criminally prosecuted, to shift the blame; to insulate themselves from civil liability to you. That decision as to what crimes to prosecute persons for is ultimately a political decision.
WHY THE POLICE HAVE BECOME DRUNK WITH POWER; THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF THE EXCLUSIONARY RULE.
The “exclusionary rule” requires a Judge to usually exclude from evidence at a criminal trial that evidence obtained in violation of the United States Constitution (and in many states under their state constitutions).
- Detentions of persons (inside and outside of homes);
- Arrests of persons (with and without a warrant, and inside and outside of homes);
- The use of force on persons (pre-trial detainees and convicts);
- Probation searches (inside and outside of homes);
- Parole searches (inside and outside of homes);
- Search warrants (obtaining and serving residential and commercial warrants);
- Pat-down searches;
- Warrantless searches of persons;
- Warrantless searches of vehicles;
- Warrantless searches of homes (i.e.exigent circumstances and emergency doctrine.)
Once you get past the basics, however, most police officers really don’t understand what the Constitution forbids them from doing. Police officers simply are not sufficiently trained to properly act within with long established Constitutional constraints on them. It takes years for lawyers and judges to understand fourth amendment search and seizure issues, and they often disagree about whether certain conduct is, or is not, constitutional. Moreover, just like the rest of us, the cops make mistakes all of the time. They are human, and, therefore, false arrests by police officers are often the product of either sheer incompetence (i.e. the police arrest another for conduct that isn’t criminal), or of the police officer attempting to justify his/her unlawful conduct against a civilian (i.e. provoking verbal remonstrance, and then beating-up the civilian for protesting), by arresting, and then framing their victims (i.e. authoring false police reports, suborning and committing perjurious court testimony, concealing exculpatory evidence) of his federal criminal (18 U.S.C. § 242), and otherwise tortious misconduct.
FALSE ARRESTS AND THE RISE OF THE POLICE STATE IN AMERICA; Atwater v. City of Lago Vista.
If a police officer arrests you for any violation of law, even a parking ticket or a seat-belt violation, actually taking you to jail and booking you does not violate the Fourth Amendment; at least since
These days, qualified immunity for false arrests are so common, that they almost make false arrest cases impossible to win.
FALSE ARREST CASES – WHAT EXACTLY, IS A FALSE ARREST?
CALIFORNIA LAW ON FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – ELEMENTS AND PROOF – CALIFORNIA LAW
A “false arrest” is the same “tort” as a “false imprisonment” under California law. In a nutshell, an arrest by a peace officer in California is lawful if it’s either made pursuant to a facially valid warrant, or when the police have probable cause to believe that another has committed a crime. Unlike federal law, under California law, the burden is on the police to justify false arrest / false imprisonment of you at a civil trial (See, California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 1401 [False Arrest by Peace Officer Without Warrant] and 1402 [Peace Officer’s Justification / Defense To Claim Of False Arrest].)
Under California law, a peace officer (i.e. police officer or deputy sheriff) may arrest another for a felony for which the officer has “probable cause” to believe person committed, or may arrest another for a misdemeanor that was committed in their presence (See, Cal. Penal Code § 836.) “Presence is not mere physical proximity but is determined by whether the offense is apparent to the officers senses”. People v. Sjosten, 262 Cal.App.2d 539, 543-544 (1968″.) An officer can arrest a civilian, upon probable cause, for any felony; committed in the presence of an officer or not. Cal. Penal Code § 836. However, it does not violate the fourth amendment, for an officer to arrest for a misdemeanor that was committed outside of the presence of the officer, even though such an arrest violates California state law.
FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – NO “QUASI-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY” UNDER CALIFORNIA LAW.
“There shall be no civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, any peace officer . . . acting within the scope of his or her authority, for false arrest or false imprisonment arising out of any arrest under any of the following circumstances:
(1) The arrest was lawful, or the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.”
Although police civil defendants have argued that Section 847(b)(1) immunizes peace officers for false arrests like the “qualified immunity” provided for police false arrest civil defendants federal court, that code section cannot be reasonably construed that way. The first part of Section 847(b)(1) (“The arrest was lawful”), logically changes nothing, for if the arrest was lawful, then there is no liability under anyone’s theory; kind an unintended legal redundancy. The second part of Section 847(b)(1) (“the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful”), could only reasonably be meant to apply to a situation, where an officer arrested a civilian based upon either: 1) an arrest warrant that did issue, but for which there was no probable cause to have issued (the officer who obtained the arrest warrant on insufficient grounds committed the fourth amendment violation, and is liable for the false arrest, unless otherwise protected, such as by “qualified immunity“), or 2) when the officer had “reasonable cause”, which is essentially a term equivalent to “probable cause” under the jury instructions that are used at the trial of this particular tort (See, CACI 1402; . . . arrest lawful if . . . “reasonable cause to believe that the plaintiff committed a crime“ is the standard for whether a peace officer’s arrest of a civilian was lawful.) Therefore, logically, Section 47(b)(1) provides no immunity for California peace officers for a false arrest. That does not mean, however, that a state or federal judge won’t disagree with that proposition. It is not fully developed under either California law, or by the federal district court’s interpretation of that statute.
FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – FEDERAL LAW – GENERALLY.
A “false arrest” under federal law, is considered a violation of a person’s right to be free from an “unreasonable seizure” of their person under the Fourth Amendment (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction for Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.) The United States Supreme Court has defined a “seizure of a person” as when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave the presence of police officers and to go about their business. See, United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980.)
In 1871, Congress enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act (42 U.S.C. 1983), that gives any person whose federal Constitutional rights have been violated, a right to sue, any person who violated those rights under the color of state law, in a United States District Court. Section 1983 lawsuits can also be brought in a state court of general jurisdiction; See, 42 U.S.C. 1988. Accordingly, a person who is falsely arrested by a peace officer (i.e. police officer, deputy sheriff, or some other officer who derives peace officer powers from state law), may sue the police officer under Section 1983, as well as under California state law. In federal court, in a civil Fourth Amendment “arrest without probable cause” case (a federal false arrest case), the jury is instructed at the end of the case, on the following definition of “probable cause”:
“Probable cause exists when, under all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] at the time, an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a fair probability that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime” (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20, Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.)
Therefore, that standard, whether “an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a “fair probability” that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime”, is the standard that the propriety of an arrest, outside of the home is judged by, in federal court in the states comprising the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20). It doesn’t matter what the thousands of other cases, from the Supreme Court on down, say about what “probable cause” means. All that matters, is what a civil jury is going to be told is the standard that they should judge the facts by, in their deliberations (a civil jury is the “Judge of the facts” [“trier of fact”], and the District Judge is the “Judge of the law”.) Some justices say that the words “probable cause“, are found in the text of the fourth amendment itself, and that is the standard for a seizure of a person by the government that was established by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1791; not reasonable suspicion:
“MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.
I agree that petitioner was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. I also agree that frisking petitioner and his companions for guns was a “search.” But it is a mystery how that “search” and that “seizure” can be constitutional by Fourth Amendment standards unless there was “probable cause” [n1] to believe that (1) a crime had been committed or (2) a crime was in the process of being committed or (3) a crime was about to be committed.
The opinion of the Court disclaims the existence of “probable cause.” If loitering were in issue and that [p36] was the offense charged, there would be “probable cause” shown. But the crime here is carrying concealed weapons; [n2] and there is no basis for concluding that the officer had “probable cause” for believing that that crime was being committed. Had a warrant been sought, a magistrate would, therefore, have been unauthorized to issue one, for he can act only if there is a showing of “probable cause.” We hold today that the police have greater authority to make a “seizure” and conduct a “search” than a judge has to authorize such action. We have said precisely the opposite over and over again. [n3] [p37]
In other words, police officers up to today have been permitted to effect arrests or searches without warrants only when the facts within their personal knowledge would satisfy the constitutional standard of probable cause. At the time of their “seizure” without a warrant, they must possess facts concerning the person arrested that would have satisfied a magistrate that “probable cause” was indeed present. The term “probable cause” rings a bell of certainty that is not sounded by phrases such as “reasonable suspicion.” Moreover, the meaning of “probable cause” is deeply imbedded in our constitutional history. As we stated in Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100-102:
The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history. The general warrant, in which the name of the person to be arrested was left blank, and the writs of assistance, against which James Otis inveighed, both perpetuated the oppressive practice of allowing the police to arrest and search on suspicion. Police control took the place of judicial control, since no showing of “probable cause” before a magistrate was required.
That philosophy [rebelling against these practices] later was reflected in the Fourth Amendment. And as the early American decisions both before and immediately after its adoption show, common rumor or report, suspicion, or even “strong reason to suspect” was not adequate to support a warrant [p38] for arrest. And that principle has survived to this day. . . .
. . . It is important, we think, that this requirement [of probable cause] be strictly enforced, for the standard set by the Constitution protects both the officer and the citizen. If the officer acts with probable cause, he is protected even though it turns out that the citizen is innocent. . . . And while a search without a warrant is, within limits, permissible if incident to a lawful arrest, if an arrest without a warrant is to support an incidental search, it must be made with probable cause. . . . This immunity of officers cannot fairly be enlarged without jeopardizing the privacy or security of the citizen.
The infringement on personal liberty of any “seizure” of a person can only be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment if we require the police to possess “probable cause” before they seize him. Only that line draws a meaningful distinction between an officer’s mere inkling and the presence of facts within the officer’s personal knowledge which would convince a reasonable man that the person seized has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a particular crime.
In dealing with probable cause, . . . as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175.
To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment. [p39] Until the Fourth Amendment, which is closely allied with the Fifth, [n4] is rewritten, the person and the effects of the individual are beyond the reach of all government agencies until there are reasonable grounds to believe (probable cause) that a criminal venture has been launched or is about to be launched.
There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today.
Yet if the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) Douglas,J. Dissenting.
Moreover, it does not matter what the arresting officer’s state of mind was, even if he was mistaken as to the crime committed, so long as in retrospect, a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that there was a “fair probability” that you committed a crime.
THE CLOSELY RELATED OFFENSE DOCTRINE; A REASONABLE BUT NOW EXTINCT APPROACH TO WHETHER CIVIL LIABILITY ATTACHES TO AN ARREST.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used to employ a doctrine entitled the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Under that doctrine, if an officer arrested a civilian for one particular crime, but the police officer didn’t have probable cause to have arrested the person was for that crime, if a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed to have arrested the person for some other crime that was “closely related” to the crime that the person was arrested for, then the arrest is valid under the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Bingham v. City of Manhattan Beach, 341 F.3d 939 (9th Cir. 2003.) However, the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine” was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146 (2004.)
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals more recently cut-back on the scope of the effect of Devenpeck v. Alford, by limiting the type of cases that the officers could have righteously arrested one for, to crimes that state law permits a custodial arrest, such as a misdemeanor or a felony. See, Edgerly v. City and County of San Francisco, 599 F.3d 946 (9th Cir. 2010.) This decision seems to ignore the United States Supreme Court Case of Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001), that held that a custodial arrest by a peace officer didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment, even if the crime that the person was arrested for was not one for which state law permits a custodial arrest. However, that’s the law in the Ninth Circuit at this time.
“Our cases make clear that an arresting officers state of mind (except for the facts that he knows) is irrelevant to the existence of probable cause. . . . That is to say, his subjective reason for making the arrest need not be the criminal offense as to which the known facts provide probable cause. As we have repeatedly explained, the fact that the officer does not have the state of mind which is hypothecated by the reasons which provide the legal justification for the officer’s action does not invalidate the action taken as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action. . .. [T]he Fourth Amendments concern with reasonableness allows certain actions to be taken in certain circumstances, whatever the subjective intent.” See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 15253 (2004.)
Accordingly, the arresting police officers belief about what crime a person committed is irrelevant. All that matters is whether a reasonably well trained officer would have entertained a belief that the person arrested committed a crime; that is, the “reasonably well trained officer” in the abstract. If that fictional “reasonably well trained police officer” would not have believed that a crime had been committed, the arrested person may be able to obtain compensation for his/her false arrest. Many times an officer mistakenly believes that certain conduct is a crime, but it’s not (See, Tab above for “Police Misconduct News“, and the Section therein entitled “Possum Impossible”; the Lorenzo Oliver case; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that, as matter of law, no crime committed.) Other times, an officer arrests a person for a crime that he has no warrant or probable cause for, but, under the facts as the officer knew them, there was nonetheless a crime committed, that would have been apparent to the officer is he was familiar with that particular criminal statute. So long as a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed from the facts known to the arresting officer, the arrest is generally lawful. See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 152-53 (2004.
FALSE ARREST CASES – DON’T CALL THE COPS UNLESS YOU WANT SOMEONE AT LEAST IN JAIL, OR VERY POSSIBLY DEAD.
All of use have broken some sort of law, but most of us don’t go around holding-up liquor stores. The odds are, that if you are inquiring about a police misconduct case, such as a false arrest case, that you fall into three basic categories of ways that the police came into contact with you, and then falsely arrested you, or worse.
WHAT YOU CAN DO.
Someone has to stand-up to the bullies of society, who think that using state police power to humiliate others, is funny, and makes them big men (or women.) There are thousands of others like you, who are good people, and have been somehow, for some reason that you could not have ever imagined, victimized by the government. It might as well be you. Stand-up for justice. Stand-up for our form of self-government. Stand-up for the spilled-blood of our fathers, who bravery died to prevent the very thing, that the government is doing to you right now. Click on “Home”, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation. Also, if you have been the victim of a False Arrest or Excessive Force by a police officer, check our Section, above, entitled: “What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“.
Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.
Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering
Jerry L. Steering, Esq.
Suing Bad Cops And Defending Bogus Criminal Cases Since 1984
Jerry L. Steering with Diane Sawyer, Co-counsel* Bob Dole, and former partner** Melvin M. Belli
The Law Offices Of Jerry L. Steering 4063 Birch Street, Suite 100 Newport Beach, CA 92660, 949-474-1849, (Fax) 949-474-1883, firstname.lastname@example.org
***The State Bar of California does not certify a specialty in police misconduct
which is most of Mr. Steering’s law practice.
*In the District of Columbia only.
**In Beverly Hills Office only.