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Man Mistakenly Jailed For 3 Days, Despite Being 9 Inches Taller Than Suspect

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Whoops (Photo by Paul Matthew Photography via Shutterstock)
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Whoops. Riverside police mistakenly held the wrong guy for three days, even though the man they had in custody was much taller and 40 pounds lighter than their actual suspect, and had a different middle name. A panel of three judges from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made a unanimous decision yesterday that a man who was wrongfully held for three days in jail could sue L.A. County and the L.A. Sheriff's Department, the L.A. Times reports.

Mario A. Garcia, a gardener who lives in Riverside, was pulled over and arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on November 26, 2012 at about 2 a.m.

Typically, Garcia would have been released later that same day, but officers discovered that Garcia had a felony warrant out for him for allegedly selling drugs, dating back to 1994.

The problem was that this Mario Garcia was not the Mario Garcia they were looking for. While the two shared the same first and last name, as well as the same birthday, there were several discrepancies between the two men. The Garcia with the warrant was nine inches shorter and 40 pounds heavier than the Garcia they had in custody.

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Nonetheless, Riverside officers contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and ended up keeping Garcia for three days until a judge figured out the mix-up and released him.

Garcia's lawyer, Donald W. Cook, said that his client protested that they had the wrong guy. According to the suit, if L.A. County had simply passed on information about the other Garcia, they would have quickly found the discrepancy in the middle name, as well as a different set of fingerprints.

"The booking officers clearly had a duty to make readily available inquiries. And those further inquiries would have shown more material differences, such as different arrest record, middle initial and home address," Judge Ronald M. Gould wrote.

Cook said that this had actually happened to Garcia before, when he was detained by immigration officers on the same warrant, according to SF Gate. He also said that it is sometimes a Latino tradition to name a baby based on their birthdate, which could explain the first name and birthdate.