If someone went to a job interview, and the job was offered to said person immediately after the interview, but upon arriving at home the person receives a phone call from their potential future employer saying that the offer had to be retracted on the grounds that there was a warrant out for their arrest.

Assuming the person turns themselves in, but the charges against them are not dropped after talking with the police, they then must go through the process of being charged.

While in the trial, for these charges could this person bring a suit against the police for lost wages or could this person (after being acquitted) bring a claim against the police department in civil court?

2 Answers 2


In general, you do not have civil recourse against the government for (lawful) legal process that you are the victim of. "Counterclaim" would only be applicable when A sues B, and B makes a counterclaim against A – the police don't sue you, they arrest you, and the prosecutor prosecutes you (or decides not to).

If the police beat you up, you could sue them for violating your rights, under what is known as Section 1983. Given the scenario you describe, this comes closest to involving false arrest, meaning that there was no probable cause for arrest. Otherwise, the police have immunity for their actions. But if there is a legal arrest warrant, there is probable cause (existence of probable cause is the standard for issuing an arrest warrant), so no claim against the police will succeed.

I am leaving out the anomalous concept of an unlawful arrest warrant, where a judge issued an arrest warrant but there is in fact no probable cause. Such a case would be covered by Section 1983, where either the judge or the swearing officer (or both) violated your rights.

  • Could this be considered damages done by the police while they are in the line of duty, like in the situation that a police officer was to hit your car while chancing someone else? Apr 14, 2019 at 21:20
  • Yes, it's all part of the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
    – user6726
    Apr 14, 2019 at 22:51
  • 3
    I should point out that on a state by state basis, there may be statutory exceptions for traffic accidents, since police-caused damage was a notorious misuse of sovereign immunity which legislatures often eliminated. That's as opposed to e.g. non sec 1983 overzealous arrests.
    – user6726
    Apr 14, 2019 at 23:49
  • The judge would be immune from liability even then.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:27

Assuming the person turns themselves in, but is not acquitted of the charges against them after talking with the police, they then must go through the process of being charged.

For what it is worth, police might not pursue charges or might dismiss the charges, but an acquittal is a legal term of art that happens only after a judge or jury makes a ruling on the merits in a case, based upon a trial or a motion from defense counsel (generally speaking, during trial).

An acquittal provides double jeopardy protection against a retrial and isn't subject to a direct appeal (or more accurately, to a direct appeal that impacts the outcome of that particular case; a few states allow direct appeals from acquittals that have no impact on the defendant, but impact the rule of law allegedly misapplied in the case in future cases).

While in the trial for these charges could this person bring a counterclaim against the police for lost wages

No. There are no counterclaims in criminal cases.

or could this person (after being adjudicated) bring a claim against the police department in civil court?

To prevail in a civil lawsuit against the police, the person would have to show that the claim was brought without probable cause with the intent to deprive that person of his constitutional civil rights (i.e. that the police sought and obtained the arrest warrant knowing that there was no probable cause to bring the charges or issue the warrant).

Mere dismissal of the charges, or an acquittal at trial, does not generally entitle a criminal defendant to any legal relief (a few states are exceptions to this rule, but not many).

A civil lawsuit against the complaining witness would also be subject to at least a qualified immunity and would generally require, at least, proof that the complaining witness intentionally made a false report to the police when it was foreseeable that this would harm you. The liability of a complaining witness would be mostly a matter of state law rather than federal law.

A prosecutor has absolute immunity from civil liability for their litigation misconduct (but only qualified immunity for their conduct in pre-complaint criminal investigations).

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