On August 21, Teresa Culpepper called the Atlanta police to report that her truck had been stolen from in front of her home. She could never have guessed that having her truck stolen would only be the beginning of her misfortune that day. She was held by the state of Georgia for 53 days in violation of her rights.
When the police responded to Culpepper’s call regarding her stolen truck, they arrested her on charges of aggravated assault. It turns out that they were on the lookout for another woman named Teresa, and had mistaken Culpepper for that suspect based on her name alone.
Despite the fact that neither Culpepper’s birth date nor her address matched that of the suspect the police were seeking for the assault, law enforcement officials kept Culpepper in Fulton County Jail for 53 days.
Culpepper told local reporters that she did not know what to do or how to get herself out of the situation. Finally, Culpepper’s public defender was able to bring the alleged assault victim into court to verify that that Culpepper was not the same Teresa that the victim had accused of assault.
This type of mistake by our criminal justice system is appalling and outrageous. The state deprived an innocent woman of her rights for almost two months based on an obvious misidentification. This highlights law enforcement’s capacity to put criminal prosecution ahead of protecting citizens’ constitutional rights.
Culpepper explained that she had no idea how to get herself out of the horrible situation in which the police had put her. Any time that law enforcement officials refuse to recognize your rights, it is important to seek the counsel of knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution “Atlanta woman arrested by mistake, jailed 53 days,” David Ibata, Oct. 18, 2011