Caroline Stern, 55 and George Hess, 54, are an odd couple. She's a dentist. He's a film industry prop master. They also enjoy swing dancing. They enjoy it so much that sometimes, when the mood strikes, they'll do it in public. And now they've been arrested for it, reports the Daily Mail.
They had just finished dancing and were waiting for the subway. A steel drum musician began tapping out a rhythmic tune. Overcome by the music, the duo began to dance. They started doing the Charleston.
Perhaps it was jealousy. Perhaps they were just bored. Perhaps the officers were in a bad mood after watching a Craig Brewer remake of their favorite childhood film.
Two police officers approached the couple and told them, "You can't do that on the platform." The officers demanded identification. Because Stern could only produce a credit card, which had her name, photo, and signature, the duo were ordered to come with the officers.
Hess then tried to film the encounter. Bad idea. According to Stern, eight "ninja cops" appeared out of nowhere. He was tackled and handcuffed. Both were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for impeding the flow of traffic. The District Attorney dropped the meritless charges shortly thereafter.
If you are a long time reader, you already know that the cops can't arrest you out of sheer boredom or distaste for your dancing or self-expression. Some crime has to be committed first.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits these types of bad faith arrests. Those who are arrested without cause can file a Section 1983 claim in federal court. It essentially alleges that the constitutional rights of the arrestees were violated when they are taken into custody without cause.
If the lawsuit is successful, it allows compensatory recovery for any injuries, lost wages, and expenses, plus punitive damages. The punitive damages are meant to teach the officers, and their supervisors, a lesson. Stern and Hess have already filed their lawsuit. If their allegations are true, the suit certainly does sound like it has merit.
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Couple handcuffed, jailed for dancing on subway platform: lawsuit (New York Post)
- Police Misconduct Case: Did the Lawyers Beat the Cops? (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Zoe West Gets Naked in Times Square 'For Art', Sues NYPD (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)