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ARTICLE ID 27566

$________ - CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION - FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY IDENTIFY CAR THEFT SUSPECT - MISSPELLING OF NAME - INCOMPETENT POLICE INVESTIGATION - 41 DAYS INCARCERATION - LOSS OF EMPLOYMENT - JAIL ASSAULT - MENTAL ANGUISH.

Broward County

The plaintiff, a male in his late 20’s, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. Section ________ against the Coral Springs Police Department and one of its detectives. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant officer conducted an incompetent investigation which resulted in the plaintiff’s false arrest and 41 days incarceration on car theft charges. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant police department was on notice of the officer’s past incompetence and failed to take corrective measures. The defendant argued that there was probable cause for the arrest and that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated.

In February of ________, a resident of Coral Springs reported to police that his car had been stolen by his roommate. The police report indicated the perpetrator of the crime as "Donald Boone." The defendant detective subsequently took statements from the witnesses, but allegedly failed to check the spelling of the suspect’s name. The actual suspect was "Donald Bohn." However, the police report erroneously spelled the name "Donald Boone," the plaintiff’s name.

Approximately 1.5 months after the initial police report, the defendant detective entered the name of "Donald Boone" into the NCIC computer and swore out an arrest warrant for the plaintiff using the identifying information received from the computer.

Several months after the warrant was issued, police in Orlando responded to complaints of a loud pool party. The attendants of the party were asked for identification and the plaintiff was arrested on the outstanding warrant. The plaintiff was incarcerated in the Broward County jail for 41 days before the charges against him were dismissed.

The plaintiff argued that the correct spelling, social security number and other information to correctly identify the suspect were available from the victim if it had been sought by the defendant. The officer also failed to show the plaintiff’s driver’s license photograph to the victim to ensure that the correct individual was being arrested, according to the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff contended that the victim told the defendant detective that the suspect had committed prior felonies and the plaintiff had no prior record, making the mistake obvious. Additionally the plaintiff had an Orlando address whereas the suspect lived in Coral Springs. The plaintiff’s police procedure expert opined that the defendant officer conducted his investigation with a reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s constitutional rights and that the investigation was plainly incompetent.

On the 25th day of the plaintiff’s incarceration, the actual perpetrator was arrested driving the stolen car. On the 39th day of the plaintiff’s incarceration, the defendant detective was notified of the mistake, yet the plaintiff was not released from jail for another two days. The plaintiff contended that the defendant detective failed to have the plaintiff immediately p 7 3 released from custody when it was clear he was innocent.

The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant police department had a custom and policy which allowed civil rights violations to occur and failed to adequately train, supervise and discipline the defendant detective. The plaintiff introduced evidence that the defendant detective had been reprimanded on prior occasions for investigative mistakes including spelling errors and reporting facts which had not been properly verified.

The defendant argued that the officer involved made an error in judgment, but that the error did not rise to a Constitutional rights violation. The defendant officer testified at deposition that he assumed the spelling on the initial police report had been checked by the officer who took the report. In a subsequent deposition, the defendant officer testified that he verified the spelling of the suspect’s name with the victim off the record, but did not do so on the taped statement made by the victim. The victim denied that he was asked the spelling of the suspect’s name. The defense also argued that there was probable cause for the plaintiff’s arrest despite the ultimate truth.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________ which included $________ in past pain and suffering, $________ in future pain and suffering and $________ in past loss of wages.

The jury declined to award punitive damages which were sought by the plaintiff. Post-trial motions are pending.

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