An underage woman who was violently arrested on a New Jersey beach for underage possession of alcohol is filing a civil rights lawsuit against the arresting officers and the city. While the city is claiming that the lawsuit is just a “money grab,” the allegations that she raises are disturbing, if true.
20-Year-Old Woman Violently Arrested at Wildwood Beach for Alcohol Possession
The arrest led to the release of a video by bystanders that quickly went viral.
A 20-year-old and her friend were enjoying a sunny day at Wildwood Beach in New Jersey when two uniformed police officers saw exposed, but apparently unopened, beer containers. The officers conducted breathalyzers on both girls, but they came back clear.
While there was no evidence that the girls were drinking, though, New Jersey law prohibits public possession of alcohol by minors. When the police officers asked if the girls were on the beach on their own, they said they were with their aunt, who had stepped away. One of the girls called the aunt, but rather than waiting to see if the adult would come back, the officers initiated an arrest that ended with them beating the girl into submission and wrestling her in the sand.
She was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly spitting on a police officer, but that charge didn't stick. After pleading guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct for the public possession of alcohol, she is now filing a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city.
Lawsuit Alleges Police Lied During Grand Jury
The lawsuit, which demands compensation for the girl's injuries, emotional distress, and the harm to her reputation that stemmed from the arrest, claims that the police lied during the grand jury investigation that indicted her for disorderly conduct.
At the grand jury stage, prosecutors present whatever evidence of guilt they have accumulated to a group of laypeople in an attempt to convince them that criminal charges should be filed. If they show that there is probable cause to believe a crime occurred, the grand jury will issue an indictment that lets the district attorney's office to move forward with a criminal charge.
Grand juries are occasionally used in Pennsylvania state court criminal proceedings and are frequently used in Federal criminal cases in Philadelphia and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. New Jersey regularly uses grand juries, however, for Superior Court criminal cases. Unlike New Jersey and the Federal Court, Philadelphia criminal court proceedings are most often initiated through a "preliminary hearing" which takes place at the Criminal Justice Center where the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office attempts to establish probable cause against a defendant.
While there is no defense at the grand jury stage, the witnesses who are called to testify to the grand jury are under oath. When the prosecutor questions them about the incident in an attempt to convince the grand jury to issue an indictment, they can commit perjury if they knowingly give a false or misleading statement.
Police, though, know that grand jury testimony is difficult to challenge, especially considering the fact that the defense lawyer is not present.
Criminal Defense Lawyer in Philadelphia: Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer who knows to look for inconsistent and false statements in grand jury testimony. If police committed perjury at that stage in the proceedings, it can undercut their claims that they had probable cause. Contact him online or call the Philadelphia law office of Joseph D. Lento at (215) 535-5353.