“The fact that a victim provides the police with information of an alleged crime does not, without more, establish probable cause. Rather, the officer has a duty to investigate the reliability of the victim, and, if circumstances call into doubt the victim’s veracity, to investigate the allegations and corroborate them.”
- She had given contradictory accounts to the police, “changing critical facts every time she recounted the event.”
- She waited four days before seeking medical assistance or reporting to the police.
- The medical and forensic evidence did not corroborate her complaint.
- There was no DNA from Mr. Jovanovic “on the victim, her clothing, or any of the undergarments she wore on the night of the alleged assault.”
- The accuser had a history of making false sexual accusations against men - a fact that the police could have discovered with a reasonable investigation.
These factors, the judge ruled, if true, were enough to establish doubt as to the accuser’s veracity, triggering a duty to investigate further prior to an arrest. A nine day delay in arresting Mr. Jovanovic further undermined the claim that there was probable cause for the arrest, suggesting to the judge that the police doubted the accuser’s story at the time that it was made, thus triggering the duty to corroborate that story prior to the arrest.
This case has not reached final judgment, and an opinion in a federal district court in New York does not establish binding precedent for a potential case brought in a federal district court in North Carolina. Most of the issues, though, involve settled interpretations of federal law which would apply in both jurisdictions, and so we can say to the DA and police in Durham - “Read it and weep."