The Supreme Court makes it easier to sue police when criminal charges are dropped

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday made it easier to sue police and the government for malicious prosecution if the charges are later dropped.

in one 6-3 decision, the court said that in order for a defendant to appeal, one need not be found not guilty by a judge or jury, and prosecutors need not declare they wrongly charged. According to the court, it is enough if the charges are simply dismissed.

“Logically, the question of whether a criminal defendant has been wrongly charged does not depend on whether the prosecutor or the court has explained why the prosecution was dropped,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the majority of the court.

The verdict was a victory for a Brooklyn man, Larry Thompson, who was arrested after a relative who lived at his 911 apartment claimed Thompson sexually abused his newborn daughter.

When the police arrived, he said they couldn’t come in without a warrant. They burst in anyway and, after a brief scuffle, handcuffed him. The baby was taken to a hospital for examination, but the only traces on the child turned out to be diaper rash.

The relative who called 911 “apparently suffered from a mental illness,” court filings say.

Despite this, Thompson was charged with resisting arrest and was held in jail for two days. The prosecutor then dropped the charges and the judge dismissed the case, both without reason.

Thompson sued, alleging malicious prosecution and violation of his constitutional rights. He prevailed before a federal judge, but the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that such a lawsuit can only succeed if a case ends with a positive plea of ​​innocence.

The Supreme Court said Monday the verdict was wrong. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch disagreed, saying the court wrongly upheld Thompson’s Fourth Amendment claim. They said the elements of malicious prosecution are vastly different than the constitutional safeguards against illegal search and seizure, and called Thomas’ lawsuit “a hybrid lawsuit of uncertain scope.” The Supreme Court makes it easier to sue police when criminal charges are dropped

Caroline Bleakley

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