Supreme Court Makes It Easier To Sue Over Wrongful Arrests

( On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that former criminal defendants were not required to be acquitted in court before suing for malicious prosecution or wrongful arrest.

In a 6-3 decision, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court sided with the plaintiff, Navy veteran Larry Thompson who sued NYPD officers for civil rights violations after he was wrongfully arrested and the charges were dismissed.

Thompson was arrested after his sister-in-law called the police saying he abused her baby. Police broke into Thompson’s house after he refused to admit them. However, the judge in the case dropped the charges “in the interests of justice.”

Because the judge dropped the charges against him, Thompson was not able to sue since the case never went to trial.

In its decision, the Court ruled that criminal defendants can sue solely based on whether or not they are convicted of the charges. As Thompson was never convicted, the Court ruled that he can sue for wrongful arrest.

In the majority opinion, the Court said requiring innocence creates a paradox. It makes little sense, Kavanaugh wrote, that the Fourth Amendment Claim of unreasonable search and seizure would be barred in cases where prosecutors dismiss the charges due to lack of evidence but would be allowed in cases where the evidence was strong enough to go to trial.

Joining Kavanaugh in the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Alito wrote that the decision would ultimately lead to confusion down the road. He said the petitioner in this case had other options available to him and should have pursued those options before the case came to the Supreme Court. Alito argued that Thompson could have sought relief under New York law which recognizes malicious prosecution tort.

Alito wrote that rather than create a “new hybrid claim,” the Court should’ve held that a “malicious prosecution claim may not be brought under the Fourth Amendment.” This, Alito explained, would not leave a wrongfully arrested person without legal protection.