9 Investigates reports mistake led to innocent woman's arrest

by: Karla Ray Updated:

APOPKA, Fla. - A Winter Garden woman spent 15 hours in the Orange County jail for a crime she didn’t commit. 

9 Investigates learned her detention may have been caused by a mistake in a different jurisdiction.

Investigative reporter Karla Ray obtained video of the arrest, in which the woman told police her family had been using the car for weeks.

The car had been reported stolen to Apopka police by an Enterprise Rent-A-Car employee on March 27, but the next day someone from the rental business called back to say they had reported the wrong car stolen, investigators said.

For some reason, that information wasn’t put into the system that officers use to run license plates, leading to the innocent woman being locked up on March 29.

“The car is registered stolen?” the woman asked officers at the scene.

“That’s what the computer is saying, so we’ll figure it out. It might just be a mishap or something,” a Winter Garden police officer told the woman.

Certified law enforcement expert Chuck Drago told 9 Investigates that cases like this often end up in court.

“This is a case where you’ve taken someone’s freedom away. You can’t have mistakes when it comes to something like this,” Drago said.

Though the woman asked 9 Investigates not to use her name, she told us by phone she missed work while waiting to be released from jail. The woman said she spent more than 15 hours behind bars for something she didn’t do before a letter from Apopka police ordered her to be released and cleared of charges.

“I would not be surprised if this ends up in some type of civil action. It's a horrible experience for this person that you'll never, you can't change, there's nothing that will change what she went through,” Drago said.

An Apopka police captain told 9 Investigates the agency is very concerned about the incident and that they’ve launched an investigation to determine what went wrong. Even though the case was dropped, the arrest report and case history still shows up on the Clerk of Court’s website, meaning unless the woman gets the arrest expunged or sealed, it could continue to follow her through no fault of her own.