ADDISON POLICE NOT LIABLE FOR ARREST BASED ON STOLEN IDENTITY
Plaintiff Hilario Mercado Jr. went to a family birthday party on September 27, 2003. As so often happens at family parties, a fight broke out and the Addison Police were called. Upon their arrival, Mercado and another person were leaving. One of the officers requested ID and Mercado presented his state ID. The Police ran Mercado’s name, race, sex and date of birth and learned that a “no bond” warrant had been issued for Mercado on a retail theft charge. The DuPage Sheriff was contacted and it was confirmed the warrant was still valid. The DuPage warrant provided information as to the Mercado’s name, date of birth, driver’s license, social security number, eye color, hair color, height and weight. The officers explained the warrant and arrested Mercado. Mercado claimed that he insisted that he was not the subject of the warrant, had never been arrested and had never missed court. [Later it was learned that Mercado’s identity had been stolen and the person who failed to appear was not Mercado, but someone named Ruben Vasquez]. The Police denied that Mercado claimed he wasn’t the subject of any warrant. Mercado was taken to jail. A couple of days later he appeared in court but didn’t mention any mistaken identity. He did request a court-appointed attorney. Later that day Mercado contacted his own attorney who attended a subsequent hearing on the case. At that time a fingerprint analysis was ordered and it was finally revealed that Mercado was not the person who had committed the retail theft. Mercado was later released. Some time later he sued the Village of Addison for false arrest. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had probable cause to arrest Mercado. The trial court granted the motion and Mercado appealed.
Plaintiff argued on appeal that the motion for summary judgment should not have been granted, as there were factual questions whether the officers had a duty to investigate his claims of mistaken identity. The defense, in response, asserted that the officers acted in good faith, as the warrant named Mercado and the identifying information on the warrant was correct. In addition, the Village argued that at the time of the arrest[2:30 am]there was no way to investigate the claims of mistaken identity.
The Second District Appellate Court first noted that to succeed on the false arrest claim, the plantiff had to show that he was arrested without any reasonable grounds to believe an offense had been commmittted. [And the Court also noted that because Village had immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act for any acts or omissions in the enforcement of a law, the plaintiff was obligated to show the officers conduct was wilful and wanton].
The Appellate Court felt that the key issue was whether the the officers reasonably believed Mercado was the fellow named in the warrant. The trial court felt they had – and the Appellate Court agreed. The Court noted that all the info on the warrant[name; DOB; address; Driver’s License number; Social Security number; eye color; hair color; height and weight] all matched plaintiff’s information. In short, the officers had every reason to believe that they had the right guy. Because Mercado was the individual named in the warrant, the Appellate Court ruled the the officers did not act unreasonably in arresting him. The trial court’s ruling was affirmed.