Court to Hear Case of Lawsuits Against Arresting Officers

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The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case that would clarify when law officers can be sued for arresting suspects, on charges that later fall apart.

Justices will consider the appeal of two Washington state patrol officers who arrested a man for tape recording their conversation during a traffic stop, reports the Associated Press. The man spent the night in jail.

An appeals court said the officers did not have probable cause to arrest Jerome Anthony “Tony” Alford in 1997 for violating a state privacy law — because the taping was not illegal.

Alford filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated, but the officers argued in their defense that they had probable cause to arrest him on other charges, because he appeared to be impersonating an officer and his car was equipped with flashing headlights like those on police cars and he had a police scanner, handcuffs and special radio.

Alford’s lawyer told justices in a filing that officers “are not entitled to rationalize a bad arrest by dredging up any illegal conduct that the plaintiff might have (at some time) committed.”

But Washington state attorneys, backed by California, argued that officers need flexibility to make arrests. The cases are Endres v. Indiana State Police and Devenpeck v. Alford.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Scotus-Religious-Trooper.html

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