Value of Wrongful Imprisonment Cases

October 23, 2009

By: David Jaffe

It happens more frequently than is generally known that innocent people spent time in prison for crimes they did not commit. In recent years due to advanced techniques for comparing DNA evidence and more attention being focused on the injustice of wrongful imprisonments, both juries and courts have found that wrongfully imprisoned plaintiffs were entitled to compensation of at least $1 million per year of imprisonment. See, e.g., Ramirez v. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, 2:04-cv-06102-GAF-FMO, 2006 WL 1428310 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 16, 2006) ($18 million in compensatory damages for malicious prosecution that resulted in ten months' incarceration); Mark Diaz Bravo v. Giblin, 2002 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 10494 a *74 (Cal. App. 2 Dist. 2002) ($3,537,000 to compensate [plaintiff] for 1,179 days of incarceration at the rate of $3,000 per day" or $1,095,000 per year, in addition to $1 million per year); Jones v. City of Chicago, 1987 U.S. District. LEXIS 10510 at *1 (N.D. I11, Nov. 10, 1987) aff'd, 856 F.2d 985 (7 th Cir. 1988) ($71,100 for false arrest; $71,100 for intentional infliction of emotional distress; $355,500 for false imprisonment; and $213,300 for malicious prosecution resulting in one month's imprisonment, or $8,532,000 per year); Pitt v. District of Columbia, 404 F. Supp. 2d 351 (D.D.C. Dec. 23, 2005) ($100,000 in compensatory damages for malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress suffered from six days' imprisonment).

I have handled a number of false arrest and wrongful imprisonment cases in which innocent people were arrested and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and substantial settlements were obtained. I am also presently involved in a civil case challenging the money bail system in Connecticut as unconstitutional. The ACLU of Connecticut has written an amicus brief. Unlike excessive or unreasonable force cases, false arrest cases involve arguments relating to violations of rights without physical injury to the client and therefore require much detailed thought and perseverance.