07/09/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Baltimore, MD – A woman who was arrested on an unfounded warrant cannot sue for the mistreatment she suffered, according to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The judgement, which declared that the plaintiff was “truly innocent and injured” by those involved in her arrest and detainment, came Wednesday, July 7, 2010, as reported by the Baltimore Sun.
The court’s 25-page opinion on the subject of Eyrania Smith’s arrest and mistreatment explains that, because so many people are to blame for the series of events that led to the unnecessary 15-hour detainment of an innocent woman, no party can directly be sued. As the first judge for the lawsuit threw the case out, the judge in the appeals court did the same.
The story that led to this unbelievable situation began in 2001, when she accepted probation for failing to pay a $215.61 bill to a Rent-A-Center in Baltimore city. Smith wrote a check for the due amount the day of her court hearing. But, because authorities could not find a record stating she paid her dues, they issued a warrant for her arrest. The judge agreed at first, but upon realizing that Smith did pay, rescinded the warrant.
The recall notice was never submitted in the official record.
So, at 9:08 a.m. on March 26, 2005, when Smith was pulled over for speeding along Interstate 83, the officer saw her outstanding warrant and arrested her. He took her away, leaving her two daughters aged 9 and 17 in the car. The 17-year-old did not have a driver’s license.
The arresting officer Michael Bortner fingerprinted and photographed Smith. He then cuffed her to a bench near a wall in the station. He hand cuffed her left wrist to a pole above her head and shackled her ankles to a pole running parallel to the wall.
Police then called Baltimore City, where the warrant originated, and asked for her to be picked up. Hours later, at 2:15 p.m., a city officer said the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift would come get her. At 5 p.m., a city officer said the midnight shift would come get her.
At midnight, 15 hours after she was initially arrested on a warrant that was not valid, a county officer drove Smith to the city. Once she finally go there, officers realized there was an error in the warrant.
According to the recent court ruling, the arresting officer only supervised her detention for a little over four hours. The judge also decided that even though she was shackled to a bench with her arm over her head, the officers worked at the best of their ability to make her stay more comfortable.
The judge pointed out that Smith was reduced to being shackled to a bench because the only three cells in the precinct were filled with men. Because of this, there was simply no place to put her other than the bench in the hallway.
The judge also pointed out that it is the judicial branch’s responsibility to determine the legitimacy of a warrant. Furthermore, the judge explained that because the arresting precinct called the city officers twice to come pick the woman up, they could not fully be held accountable for what happened to Smith that day.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Judith Ensor stated that Smith’s claim must “shock the judicial conscience” in order to qualify allegations of excessive force. She stated “that Bortner’s conduct did not rise to that level.”
The Court of Special Appeals seemed to agree, stating that Smith “has not shown a due process violation committed by the single person she has sued.” The judges seemed to believe the officers made enough effort to get Smith through the process.
The $2 million suit is thus over.
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