California Cops Locked an Innocent Man in a Sex Offender Unit for 3 Days

Victor Manuel Martinez Wario was jailed for a total of five days, spending three of those in special housing for sex offenders.


In 2021, Whittier, California, police arrested Victor Manuel Martinez Wario on an outstanding warrant related to a 2012 child molestation conviction. The only problem? Police had arrested the wrong person. However, despite Wario frequently telling police he didn't have any warrants out for his arrest, they didn't bother to check—leaving Wario imprisoned for five days. 

Now, Wario is suing, claiming that police negligence amounted to a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The officer's actions caused Wario to suffer "emotional and mental trauma," according to the suit. "He also missed time at work, and was unable to provide care to his disabled fiancée."

In March 2021, Wario was pulled over by several Whittier police officers for a minor traffic violation. During the stop, police mistakenly found that he had an active warrant out for his arrest. Even though Wario denied that he had any active warrants, he was still arrested and booked into a nearby jail.

According to the lawsuit, during the booking process, police told Wario that the warrant originated from Wario's failure to register as a sex offender and "check in with the probation department" after a 2012 conviction for child molestation. Wario again "adamantly told them that they had the wrong person," the complaint reads. But, again, no one decided to double-check that the police had arrested the correct person.

Two days later, Wario was transferred to another jail. This time, "he was assigned special housing for custodies with child molestation cases, given a specially colored jumpsuit indicating his status as a sex offender, and a wristband was placed on his wrist also showing that his case involved child molestation," the suit reads. "Because of his perceived status as a convicted child molester, Mr. Wario was in serious jeopardy of being attacked by fellow inmates."

That day, he was taken to be arraigned. During a brief discussion with his attorney, he again insisted that he was the wrong person. However, when the attorney relayed this to Judge Mary Lou Villar, she set a $30,000 bail and refused to release Wario.  

"She ordered a fingerprints expert to appear in court the following week to take his fingerprints and verify his identity," the suit reads. 

However, the following day, someone finally took basic measures to check Wario's claims. According to the suit, "the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case obtained the booking photo of the actual defendant in the case and determined that it was not Mr. Wario."

It took another day for Wario to be released—five days after his arrest.

On Tuesday, Wario filed a lawsuit against the Whittier Police Department, claiming that his false arrest was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, arguing that police had no reasonable basis for arresting and jailing him.

"No reasonable conclusion could be drawn that such an arrest and confinement was reasonable," his suit reads. "No objective facts readily available and known to Defendants could have reasonably led them to conclude that Plaintiff was a fugitive from justice stemming from a 2012 child molestation case."