ACLU Sues Officer for Unconstitutional Arrest

December 14, 2004

Man Arrested For Advising Friend of Rights

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a young man who was unconstitutionally arrested simply because he told his friend that he had the right to decline to answer questions.

“In this country, citizens should not have to fear arrest or that the police will invade their home simply because they advise friends of their constitutional rights,” said Kary Moss, director of ACLU of Michigan.

Sean King, a resident of Brooklyn, Michigan was visiting a friend in December 2002 when he saw that the doors and trunk of another friend’s parked car were open.  When he went outside to see what was happening, he found Columbia Township police officer Kevin Ambs searching the car.  He asked the officer what he was doing and Ambs told him to go back into the house or he would face arrest for hindering an investigation.  King went into the house and Officer Ambs followed. 

Nick Klein, Mr. King’s friend and son of the homeowner, was at the door when the officer arrived.  Officer Ambs asked Mr. Klein to come outside at which time Mr. King told his friend that he did not have to talk to Ambs.  Ambs told King that if he said another word, he would be arrested. As Klein stepped out of the house to talk to the officer, King again told his friend that he did not have to answer any questions. At that point, Officer Ambs pushed his way into the house, without a warrant or probable cause, chased Mr. King around the house and sprayed a pepper spray-like substance into King’s eyes, causing his eyes to burn and blurring his vision.

After suffering the humiliation and discomfort of being hand-cuffed and jailed for the night, Mr. King was then forced to hire a lawyer at his own expense to defend him against the unconstitutional charges brought against him.  In March 2003, the 12th District  Court for the County of Jackson determined that the arrest, detainment, and imprisonment were without warrant and probable cause, or without other lawful authority and dismissed all of the charges.

“I know we have the freedom of speech and the right to remain silent,” said Sean King.  “I feel like my civil rights as an American citizen were abused that night.  I hope that other people that find themselves in similar situations decide to stand up for their rights and let their voice be heard, too.”

Mr. King is currently a college student in his junior year at Ferris State University.

The lawsuit charges that Officer Ambs violated Mr. King’s constitutional rights by arresting him without probable cause and by retaliating against him for advising his friend of his rights.  Mr. King is represented by two ACLU cooperating attorneys Professor Mara Kent of Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Ann Arbor attorney Thomas Kent as well as Michigan ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg.

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