In 2008, police in D.C. arrested 21 people for trespassing and disorderly conduct after they were invited to a bachelor party.
Although there was no evidence that the partygoers knew they were trespassing, the girl who invited them did not have permission to have the party at the house. The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether it was reasonable for the police to arrest all the partygoers without any evidence that they knew they were trespassing.
The case is on appeal after the defendants’ cases were dismissed, they successfully sued the police, and they received verdicts for wrongful arrest…
Trespass Laws in South Carolina
In South Carolina, there is no such thing as “trespass.” The title of the statute and what is required for conviction is “trespass after notice.”
With a few exceptions such as speeding and statutory rape, criminal intent is a necessary element of every crime that must be proven at trial. For some crimes, a specific intent requirement is written into the statute. For example, to convict a person of murder, the state must prove that the defendant had “malice aforethought.” If the jurors do not find that there was malice aforethought, the defendant can be found guilty of a lesser offense such as manslaughter, but they must be acquitted of murder.
For crimes where a specific intent is not written into the statute, the state must still prove a general criminal intent. Mistake or accident is a complete defense to most crimes – it makes no sense to punish a person when they were not intentionally breaking the law.
SC’s trespass law is clear that a person cannot be charged with or convicted of trespassing unless they were put on notice that the property was private. This can be accomplished by “no trespassing” or “posted” signs. In many cases, law enforcement will deliver a “trespass notice” to a person so that the next time they come onto the property there will be no question that they had notice.
Lawsuits for Wrongful Arrest in SC
When the police arrest a person despite no probable cause that a crime has been committed, they can be sued for wrongful arrest.
If you have not committed any crime and an officer detains you, handcuffs you, forces you into a patrol car, and then locks you in a cage, they have most likely committed the crimes of assault and battery and kidnapping. Their fellow police, department, prosecutors, courts, and even federal agencies are not likely to arrest or charge them with their crimes. In fact, we have seen over and over that other law enforcement and the courts will protect them and cover for them at every opportunity.
How can You Hold the Police Accountable?
In many cases, you can’t. In some cases, you can file suit against either the individual officers or against the municipality. Depending on the facts of your case, the causes of action may include assault and battery, wrongful arrest (a euphemism for kidnapping), or violation of your constitutional rights like your right to free speech, right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure (which includes your right to not be physically assaulted by police), right to due process, or right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments.
Were You Charged with Trespass or Disorderly Conduct in Myrtle Beach?
In some cases, a wrongful arrest can turn into a civil suit for damages once the charges are dismissed with a finding of no probable cause. If you were charged with trespass but did not know you were trespassing, or if you were charged with public disorderly conduct solely for speech protected by the First Amendment, you may have been the victim of a wrongful arrest.
Your Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates will get the evidence in your case and work to get your criminal charges dismissed when possible. Although, in most cases, we cannot say whether you will have a successful civil claim until your criminal charges have been resolved, we will obtain and preserve any evidence of police wrongdoing for use in any potential future lawsuit.