Broken Window Incident Leads to Arrest Without Warrant of 12-Year-Old

BALTIMORE, MD - Crisfield, Maryland Patrolman Lawrence Daisey this week answered a lawsuit filed against him for unlawfully arresting and detaining a 12-year-old who accidentally broke a laundromat window in Somerset County in December 2010. The suit, filed on February 17 by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, is on behalf of the Villafuerte family and their minor daughter, cited as "M.V." in the complaint. The Villafuerte family have been residents of Somerset County for more than 20 years.

The lawsuit alleges that Patrolman Daisey arrested M.V., without a warrant, threatened the plaintiff's family with arrest when prompted for a warrant, and repeatedly refused the family's requests for a Spanish-language interpreter so that they could fully understand the charges being made against their minor daughter. Plaintiffs indicated to Patrolman Daisey that the broken window was an accident. The father offered to pay the damages to the laundromat, but Patrolman Daisey ignored the offer.

"When a police officer violates the constitutional rights of a child, it is a blow not just to a single family, but to an entire community," stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF. "This lawsuit seeks to ensure that no other Maryland child's rights will be violated in this way in the future."

In addition, the MALDEF suit alleges that Patrolman Daisey not only arrested M.V., but that following her arrest, Patrolman Daisey took her away from her family to the police station where he detained, photographed, and fingerprinted her. During the time of her detention, M.V. was not allowed to be with her father, depriving her of constitutionally-protected safeguards and of due process.

Maribel Hernández Rivera, staff attorney for MALDEF, said: "Patrolman Daisey's Answer asserts that his actions were reasonable. Patrolman Daisey takes no responsibility for having broken the trust that the community and the Villafuerte family put in him. Since the incident, M.V. has suffered from nightmares and has had trouble sleeping. This case brings to light policing that is not just unlawful and unconstitutional, but that is also destructive to a family's sense of security in their own home and in their own community."

With this lawsuit, MALDEF seeks damages from the police, who pledged to serve the community of which the plaintiff's family has been a resident for 20 years, for failing to provide basic protections. MALDEF also claims that based on his training and experience, Patrolman Daisey knew or should have known the legal requirements for a warrantless arrest of a minor child for an alleged misdemeanor offense, and the limited circumstances under which a minor child should be arrested and taken from her parents to the police station.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund