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Lets say you're a college student with a passion for amateur chemistry. Your going to school to be a chemist. As such, you make legal purchases online for equipment over several years. At some point, the government finds your purchases suspicious. Federal agents come over to your home to investigate. During their interview, its mentioned that they would like to search your home. You object and they threaten to tell the university and your work place that you are a "person of interest" in a criminal investigation.

If they were to follow through with their threat and you suffer damages in the form of getting kicked out of school and/or losing your job. Is it possible to sue the government? How would this be done?

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No.

You are a "person of interest" in a criminal investigation based upon a bona fide reasonable suspicion, even though they lack probable cause, and the government has not threatened to say anything that isn't true, so you have no cause of action against the government.

You might have a claim against the school or your employer for wrongfully firing you (being a person of interest in an investigation isn't itself unlawful or even a meaningful mark of bad character), but you are probably an "employee at will" and thus may have no recourse against the employer other than to apply for unemployment benefits because you were fired without good cause. Your recourse against the school would depend upon the nature of that relationship.

  • I'm curious, you mentioned "the government has not threatened to say anything that isn't true". But what if they did? Obviously the burden of proof is rather high. But lets say you could actually prove it. Would that open the door to some sort of liability? – Digital fire Nov 10 '17 at 20:54
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    @DigitalFire If the government said that you in fact committed the crime and they had definitive evidence that you were a 9-11 terrorist knowing that to be false, you might have a 1983 action. But, if they merely say you are a "person of interest" one would have to prove that in fact that were not at all interested in you and that this caused harm, which given their actions would be almost definitionally untrue since the did pay attention to you. "Person of interest" does not even imply that you are necessarily suspected of crime. – ohwilleke Nov 10 '17 at 21:47

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