Is It Possible To Sue Over Ghost Warrants?
When you resolve an arrest warrant, you fully expect you won't have to deal with again once your case ends. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, an old, dissolved warrant can resurface as active on your record, leading to an erroneous arrest and even jail time. When a mistake like this happens, it's natural you'd want to sue for the damages suffered, but collecting compensation won't be easy, and here are a few reasons why.
Locating the Source of the Error Can Be Tough
Clerical errors are the most common cause of ghost warrants, and those errors can occur at any time and anywhere. For instance, the judge may clear the warrant, but the court clerk may not properly update the defendant's case file, or the local law enforcement office may not update its database, resulting in the person being rearrested on an invalid warrant. It can take weeks or even months to clear up the misunderstanding, and there's no guarantee the error won't rear its ugly head again in the future.
The court system of recordkeeping is a mess. Every jurisdiction has its own system and, despite how prevalent computers are, some jurisdictions still use paper records that have never been digitized and uploaded to a shareable database. Not only does this disorganization make it possible for ghost warrants to flourish, but it can also make it difficult to pinpoint where the error occurred, and you must know who the negligent party is before you can successfully sue them for damages.
The Liable Party May Have Immunity
Even if you were to successfully track down the liable person or agency, the court still may not side with you even if you have an airtight case for a couple of different reasons. Some people and agencies have an immunity shield against lawsuits that prevents them from being held responsible for mistakes that occur during the course of their work. In these cases, you would have to prove gross negligence or that the responsible party acted with the intent to harm to even get the court to hear your case.
Other people and agencies may have immunity based on the good-faith exception. For instance, you'd have a hard time winning a case against the police for wrongful incarceration for putting you in jail based on a ghost warrant because they were operating on erroneous information. As long as the police weren't acting in bad faith (e.g. purposefully causing a ghost warrant so they could arrest you), the court is likely to rule that the arrest was an honest mistake and side with the cops.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't pursue a personal injury cased based on injuries you sustained because of ghost warrants. However, you should be prepared for how challenging it may be to litigate the case. It's best to consult with a personal injury attorney who can help you develop the best strategy for achieving the outcome you want.