False arrest arises when one is taken into custody by a person who claims, but does not have, proper legal authority. Accordingly, a claim for false arrest will not lie if an officer has a valid warrant or probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the person who was arrested committed it.
A police officer demanded that Plaintiff produce her driver's license after determining that she violated a dog leash ordinance. Plaintiff refused to produce her license and so the police officer arrested her. Plaintiff was physically hurt in the process. The Plaintiff was convicted of violating the dog leash ordinance. Plaintiff sued the police officer for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and battery. The trial court entered judgment and awarded damages in her favor. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals of Colorado.
Was the Plaintiff entitled to damages?
The Court of Appeals affirmed that because the Plaintiff's arrest was not legal, her refusal to produce her license was not criminal offense. Her arrest was not legal because at the time the police officer's demanded for her license, she was not driving a car. Thus, it was not a lawful order. Additionally, the jury concluded that police officer's conduct was outrageous and since substantial evidence supported this finding, the court could not overturn the jury's verdict. Further, the evidence was sufficient to justify the jury's award of both actual and punitive damages.