Personal Injury False Arrest
Federal law, as reflected in Smiddy v. Varney, supra, is similar to California law in that it generally limits the plaintiff to recovery for injuries caused prior to the filing of a criminal complaint. (665 F.2d at p. 266.)
It does so, however, not because police officers are immune from liability for malicious prosecution under federal law they are not (Cook v. Sheldon) but "because it is presumed that the prosecutor filing the complaint exercised independent judgment in determining that probable cause for an accused's arrest exists at that time." (Smiddey at p. 266.)
Thus, the federal courts presume the institution of criminal charges breaks the chain of causation so that further injuries from incarceration are not attributable to the false arrest and false imprisonment. (Id. at p. 267.)
Under federal law, the cutoff point is the date the criminal complaint is filed ( Smiddy v. Varney, supra, 665 F.2d at p. 266) while under California law the cutoff point is the date of arraignment ( Asgari v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 15 Cal. 4th at p. 757).
The trial court used the federal cutoff point for the state law claims but this error is of no consequence because in this case the complaint was filed and the plaintiffs were arraigned on the same day.
This presumption may be rebutted, for example, by "a showing that the district attorney was pressured or caused by the investigating officers to act contrary to his independent judgment" or by showing the officers presented the district attorney with "information known by them to be false." (Smiddy v. Varney, supra, 665 F.2d at pp. 266-267.)
"Thus," stated the Ninth Circuit, "we hold that where police officers do not act maliciously or with reckless disregard for the rights of an arrested person, they are not liable for damages suffered by the arrested person after a district attorney files charges unless the presumption of independent judgment by the district attorney is rebutted." (Id. at p. 267.)
Accordingly, unlike California law, federal law allows the plaintiff to recover for injuries arising after the filing of a criminal complaint if the plaintiff can show the complaint was not the product of the prosecutor's independent judgment.
If the police engage in fresh misconduct, for which they have no qualified immunity, after the plaintiff has been arrested and charged, they would obviously be liable for the damages proximately caused thereby. (Smiddy v. Varney, supra, 665 F.2d at p. 267; Barlow v. Ground (9th Cir. 1991) 943 F.2d 1132, 1136.)