Man Can't Sue City for Mistaken Parking Ticket Arrest

(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. ...

  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."

I really like Judge Posner!:thumbsup:

Well, considering the article states that the addresses of the men were different, in his case, yes, a letter informing him he would be arrested wouldn’t have reached him. However, if I receive a letter stating I’m going to be arrested for parking tickets I don’t have, I’m going to go down to the court house and straighten it out, thus avoiding an arrest! (on the flip side, if the tickets are mine, I can go pay them. The city gets their money, and I again avoid arrest, same outcome for me!). This happened to my fil. He lives over 2 hours away from St. Louis, the city he supposedly got a parking ticket in, on a day he wasn’t there. The notice (that he would be arrested for not paying) had his name and address, but someone else’s license plate number. Never did figure out how the mix up happened, but FIL was luckily given the opportunity to correct the problem, instead of perhaps getting arrested some time when he happened to be visiting St. Louis!

I don’t know, I’ll just never agree that it’s ok to arrest an innocent person in a case of mistaken identity. Yeah, the “charges” were dropped, but he should be compensated in some way for the hassle he had to go through. JMO.

In Christ,


Generally the government isn’t liable for citizen inconvenience when the government is dutifully going about its business. It may voluntarily compensate affected citizens, but that’s usually in more egregious cases to avoid bad publicity and possibly head off lawsuits. But the fact that such lawsuits sometimes prevail raises a question maybe Beau can shed some light on - what principles are used to determine when a government is actually liable for damages?

OK, first of all in the case of states, they have ‘sovereign immunity’. That means they cannot be sued. Several exceptions have been carved out; so states can be sued when they allow it: Gross negligence (which means when the state does not give a fig if you are harmed or not) such as leaving a sewer uncovered and the like. In the case a false arrest, it has to be arrest* plus*. Basically being arrested (which means nothing legally. You are not guilty) is something one has to put up with in our society. Just because a person is found guilty at trial does not mean they can sue for false arrest.

So a person can sue if they were arrested and the gov’t knew the charges were false, if their property was confiscated and destroyed, if their kids were put in foster homes, something like that. At base, suing for false arrest is a very hard case and is only done by those folks who are petulant and argumentative. Just move on.

I noticed you limited your answer to states. Do municipalities, which are established by states, have similar immunity? How about the federal government?

Arrested for not paying parking tickets?? Wow, how many were there??? :blush:

Yes and yes. Until recently, I don’t think you could sue a VA hospital for malpractice.

I don’t know if you can now, but I know in the past you couldn’t sue military hospitals or doctors either. :mad:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit