Say police place someone under house arrest. They are negligent and allow the person to leave and attack people.

Are police liable for damages, since they are required to protect people in their custody, and presumably also have to protect people attacked by people in custody? Otherwise, bizarre situation where police can only defend criminals.


2 Answers 2


In the US, police do not put a person under house arrest, instead, the courts do, as an alternative to standard imprisonment (either awaiting trial, or serving their sentence). The police are not involved at all; the courts cannot be sued for lenient sentencing. If a person leaves their house (even to buy a bottle of milk), they will have violated the terms of their more lenient sentence, and will be arrested and sent to regular jail. Generally, police are not liable for damages, especially when they fail to be omnipotent in their efforts to prevent others from doing wrong.

  • But, they are supposed to do something when they leave the house. Its like a reverse restraining order.
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 5:59
  • 1
    Are you sure? Are jails not liable for what the escaped convicts do? Wouldn't the courts's jurisdiction be exposed to a civil liability if a ward of the state (which every incarcerated person is) commits a tort?
    – grovkin
    Dec 7, 2020 at 6:59
  • I think grovkin is correct.
    – anon
    Dec 7, 2020 at 13:40
  • 4
    @grovkin Prisons are not liable for the actions of escaped convicts. If a convict escapes, the prison somehow failed and there are consequences but these are completely independent of what the escaped convict does or whether he breaks any laws.
    – quarague
    Dec 7, 2020 at 14:27

Supreme court ruling

a town and its police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order, which had led to the murder of a woman's three children by her estranged husband.


In general, all government agents have qualified immunity in executing their functions, in any manner they deem reasonable. There are limits to qualified immunity, e.g. felonies.

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