Mistakenly Arrested Man Can’t Sue City, Court Says

     (CN) – An Illinois man arrested in a case of mistaken identity can’t sue the city of Peoria for its allegedly unconstitutional practice of arresting people over outstanding parking tickets, the 7th Circuit ruled. Judge Posner said the plaintiff’s due process argument “hovers on the brink of the preposterous.”




     Joseph Thomas sued Peoria and a city lawyer for false arrest and abuse of process, claiming he was mistakenly arrested in lieu of a man named Joshua Thomas, who had an outstanding warrant. Though the names and addresses were different, the arrest warrant listed the number of Joseph’s driver’s license.
     Thomas was booked and released on a $100 bond, and the charges were later dismissed.
     He accused the city of violating state law by arresting people for not paying their parking tickets. He appealed the lower court’s ruling for the defendants.
     The three-judge appellate panel in Chicago questioned Thomas’ standing, noting that the state law Thomas cited wasn’t meant for people who paid their parking tickets.
     If the law protects traffic debtors from arrest, the court reasoned, Joshua Thomas is the primary victim of Peoria’s allegedly unconstitutional policy, not Joseph Thomas.
     “He is the accidental victim of a policy aimed at protecting a class to which he does not belong – people who don’t pay their parking tickets,” Posner wrote.
     The court rejected his other claims, saying his due process claim “hovers on the brink of the preposterous.”
     According to Thomas, the city should have notified him that he would be arrested for failure to pay parking tickets.
     “Since he didn’t fail to pay his parking tickets, the notice could not have helped him,” Posner wrote. “What he should as a matter of logic be arguing (though it would not be a winning argument either) is that the city should have notified him that its policy of arresting people for not paying parking tickets is clumsily administered, with the result that people who do pay their parking tickets, or for that matter never get parking tickets, had better watch out.”
     Posner added: “The implication would be that if he had received such a warning maybe he would have stopped driving.”
     The court affirmed dismissal of the case.

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