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Hello again Paige
In the law, the police department needs what is called "probable cause" to issue a warrant and/or arrest a person. Unfortunately, even one witness who states that it is your friend on the tape is usually sufficient to issue a warrant - although many police agencies are a bit more cautious and will gather more evidence than that before moving to an arrest because there are many good police officers who think twice about ruining a person's life before making a move. Most police officers I know will talk to the person and do a bit more investigating before making an arrest. However, an identification of someone on a tape will usually hold up in court as sufficient probable cause for the arrest. (I am sure you are aware that if someone is pulled over in a car, a person has a right to refuse a search of the car -- however, if the police have "probable" cause to search the car, they can do so without the owner's consent immediately on the spot -- this is where many police officers lie and state "I smelled pot burning" and even if there is no marijuana found, the officer's stop is still valid and anything else turned up in the search can be used against them -- the cops pull this little trick on teenagers all the time in order to hassle them).
You are wondering at this point if she could possibly sue the Sheriff's Dept for the money this has and will cost her if the case falls apart. It is not impossible, but it is very, very difficult to sue a law enforcement agency under these circumstances even if the case falls apart. What she would have to do is get beyond the Sheriff's claim of "probable cause" based upon the video and someone who named her and actually show to a court that ALL of this boiled down to small town politics and someone (either the person who named her or someone in the Sheriff's Dept) had a reason to harass her and make her life miserable (she will have to show that personal connection and make a civil court judge believe that it was enough for someone to point the finger at her wrongfully because we all know that the person will say "I made a mistake"). This type of evidence is very difficult to gather and prove in court. However, she may be able to make a complaint out to either the head of the Sheriff's Dept in that county (internal affairs) or, if the officers are all too closely connected, she could make a complaint out to the Attorney General's office in NC (the AG's office in every state is the chief law enforcement officer and they do get involved in investigating instances of police or law enforcement harassment of individual citizens). I do apologize for the delay in responding to this additional message but I went offline last night after you and I finished up the original question.
Thanks for you responses; they have been extremely helpful! And yes, you are correct in assuming that we intend to look into a civil case once this is all resolved. We recognize that defense attorneys probably hear this frequently, but in this situation we really do believe that the links can be made to demonstrate that a young girl's jealousy has caused this arrest to be made and it has been very costly and stressful for my friend. We have text messages from her love interest from five consecutive days prior to the arrest. (I have sent these messages to our attorney, but I doubt they are of much help in the criminal phase.) I am thinking of requesting a copy of the affidavit filed with the arrest warrant, if that is possible. I would appreciate your thoughts on that. The affidavit might enlighten us further. Also, the jealous young girl is the daughter of a recently former sheriff who is now employed as a security guard in a convenience store in the same area, but not the one of the b&e. The telling factor in my opinion is the fact that the sheriff himself made the 2 1/2 hour trip to transport my friend after her arrest back to his county - on a Sunday evening when he wouldn't be able to return home until about 3 a.m. (My friend was arrested around 8:30 p.m.) We were able to post bond Sunday evening at 11:00 p.m. only because the bail bondsman has known us personally for many years and he trusted us to pay him on Monday. This newly elected sheriff would have had no way of knowing this unless all sheriffs assume that newly arrested people are "stuck" in jail without bond for a while. When my friend lived in his county as a teenager she was very poor and really didn't have many advocates, so the jealous young girl, her former sheriff-father, and their sphere of influence would assume that now as a 24-year-old my friend would still be very vulnerable to their manipulations of the system. The new sheriff was so confident that he would be transporting my friend back to his jail that evening that he was only 45 minutes away when we told the detention center personnel to notify him to go back home because we were refusing to grant a "courtesy interview." He had no way of knowing that she is now very dear to us and that we intend to make sure that if every detail of this case has not been handled properly that they answer for it! While a civil case is probably a long shot it's still important to safeguard that the criminal justice system that we all try to trust is not abused. We also recognize that this case is very minor compared to many other abuses that probably occur regularly, but it is the one that has fallen into our laps!
One final thought - rather than pursuing arrest without probable cause, what about malicious prosecution? It seems to fit the situation perfectly.
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