The case of Edwin Hidalgo Estevez is one where the legal system went terribly wrong. Mr. Estevez, who was accused of being part of a gang of thieves responsible for stealing hundreds of motor vehicles throughout New York City and Westchester County, was finally exonerated, and all charges were dropped after prosecutors admitted to finding another man who fit the description of the suspect.
The Alleged Crime
The ring of thieves perpetrated their crimes primarily during the period between April and October 2020, when many people were home isolating during the height of the COVID pandemic. They were able to steal 45 cars during that six-month time period and hundreds over the course of two years.
On September 20 of this year, Mr. Estevez was awakened by 20 police officers with a warrant for his arrest. The next day, the state announced they had arrested 10 people for the crimes.
The indictment came after a two-year investigation by the police department’s Auto Crime division in cooperation with the AG’s Organized Crime Task Force.
The Importance of Skilled Criminal Defense
Once Mr. Estevez retained counsel, his attorney, Oliver Storch, only needed a short couple of hours after gaining access to surveillance shots to realize that the state had the wrong guy. While the state’s damning evidence of Mr. Estevez was a still photograph of a man with a full head of hair, Mr. Storch was able to prove that Mr. Estevez had shaved his head four days before the photos had been obtained.
Needless to say, Mr. Estevez has been quite shaken up by the ordeal, as he was facing a possible 15 years behind bars. He is hoping to be compensated for his damages and for the embarrassment caused by his arrest. But can he sue for damages?
When Can You Sue For False Arrest?
A false arrest is a crime as well as a civil harm. This allows a victim of false arrest to sue for damages.
There are two specific laws that can govern false arrest scenarios. One, Federal Law 42 U.S.C. § 1983 gives an individual the right to sue in federal court for a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.
The same standards exist under New York state law. If it can be proven that there was no probable cause for his arrest, he may be able to sue. But to be guilty of a false arrest, law enforcement must have acted without authority, or beyond the scope of their powers.
In New York, police can make an arrest if they
- Have a warrant
- Have probable cause
- Have reason to believe that person is trying to flee a crime scene
- Think the person is interfering with a police investigation.
In the case of Edwin Hidalgo Estevez, we will have to watch what transpires.
Getting Skilled Legal Counsel
If you have been arrested for a crime in New York City, it is critical to have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. Call Bukh Law Firm at (800) 601-0207 or (212) 729-1632 in NYC or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.