Are You the Victim of Police Misconduct?
It’s Time to Seek Legal Help With an Experienced Police Brutality Lawyer
Were you wrongfully accused of a crime and falsely arrested because of racial profiling? Was your home searched by officers without a valid warrant? Did you lose a loved one because a law enforcement official deployed a firearm, despite the fact that the victim was unarmed?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you may have suffered from police misconduct. As a victim, you may be entitled to compensation and may benefit from seeking legal counsel with a police brutality lawyer. That’s where we step in to assist.
We offer access to an extensive network of leading police misconduct lawyers who have the knowledge, commitment, and litigation experience it takes to protect your rights and win a case. Our site provides free links to some of the best and most acclaimed lawyers across the United States who have successfully handled police misconduct lawsuits and who will stop at nothing until you and your family obtain justice. Browse our site to learn more about the lawyers practicing in your area, including their background, case history, and areas of expertise, so you can choose the legal representative that best serves your needs.
Superior legal counsel is just one click or phone call away. Search for a police brutality attorney today so you can be on your way to filing a police misconduct claim and obtaining the money damages you deserve.
What is Police Misconduct?
We often hear the term “police misconduct”, but what exactly does it mean? Police misconduct occurs when an officer of the law acts in a manner that is beyond the scope of their abilities. In most cases, this equates to the use of “excessive force”, otherwise referred to as any action or measure taken by an officer than is considered unreasonable. Unreasonable force can include a wide range of incidents and actions, such as racial slurs, sexual harassment, and the infliction of unnecessary physical harm upon an individual.
Below are some common examples of police misconduct that victims can seek legal representation for with the help of an experienced brutality attorney:
- Attacking an inmate
- False arrest
- Falsification of evidence
- Harassment (verbal, physical, or sexual in nature)
- Illegal search and seizure
- Racial profiling
- Shooting an unarmed suspect
- Tampering with a crime scene
- Unethical use of firearms (including tasers and guns)
- Wrongful death
- Wrongful imprisonment
The Truth About Police Brutality and What You Can Do About It
Police officers have a responsibility to protect civilians against crime and acts of injustice. Yet, many times, it is the officers themselves who are violating the law. When police behave in a manner that is excessively violent, harass potential suspects, or fatally wound an individual who was unarmed and did not display intention to harm another, they have committed a crime.
Fortunately, victims of police misconduct and police brutality are protected by Federal Law. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials. Officers are also prohibited from displaying discrimination against individuals over race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Anyone who has experienced an incident in which an officer went beyond the scope of “reasonable force” to detain them or used violent measures during an arrest or property search has the right to seek legal assistance with a police brutality lawyer.
Contact one of our featured police brutality attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your options in filing a case and ensuring your civil rights are fully protected.
According to the Washington Post — who attempted one of the most comprehensive analyses of data around the nation — in 2016, 963 people were shot and killed by police in the US. Although African Americans make up only 13% of the population (encompassing 242 of the estimated nearly 1000 killed this year), this means that they made up as much as 25% of those killed by police. In 2015, 30% of the African Americans who lost their lives to a police officer was unarmed. And less than one-third of 2014’s African American fatalities at the hands of police were allegedly armed, but were not suspected of committing a violent crime.
Police officers put their lives on the line every day to defend the defenseless. But that does not mean that when they make a mistake and someone loses their lives, they should not be held accountable. It also does not mean that when they use excessive force, it should go unnoticed. But in many instances it does.
Police brutality is defined as an officer of the law using unnecessary or excessive force when dealing with or handling civilians. According to the law, “excessive force” means that someone uses more force than is warranted to handle a situation. It is also defined as the willful infliction of suffering or pain on someone. Police brutality is not limited to physical violence; things like racial profiling, false arrest, and verbal abuse also apply.
Because police officers are allowed to use physical force within the scope of their employment, it can be problematic to prove that they have crossed the line, which leaves many victims with very few options or avenues to seek justice. Although there are laws against it, proving it is a very difficult thing. Thanks to things like smartphones and mobile recording devices, many more incidents are being uncovered and brought to light than in previous generations.
Since 2005, there has only been a total of 13 police officers convicted of manslaughter or murder in on-duty fatal shootings, according to Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University. Also, only about 20% of law enforcement officials arrested ever face criminal prosecution for manslaughter or murder.
What is police immunity and how will it affect my case?
Police officers are allowed to use necessary force to perform their job, but there are state and constitutional laws that limit how far they can go when dealing with civilians. When they go too far, the victim of police misconduct may be able to receive compensation for any injuries sustained through state and federal laws. Civil rights were created in America to ensure that people in power never abuse that power, which includes law enforcement misconduct. So when a civilian is a victim of misconduct, a civil rights attorney may sue for both punitive and compensatory damages.
However, police officers are immune from lawsuits if it can be proved that they were doing their job properly and that they did not violate a suspect’s rights. Unless the victim can prove that the police officer was acting with willful or unreasonable misconduct, they are immune from prosecution. Police brutality cannot be proved through using negligence or even the failure to exercise due care in a claim. That means that in most cases, police officers are immune from being sued about their interaction with a victim.
Four different amendments and laws can be involved in a police brutality case. If it is a civil liberties case and not a tort one, then the arguments relate to one of four constitutional amendments:
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment guarantees American citizens, the right against unreasonable search and seizure. It is an amendment that was created to ensure that US citizens were not subjected to the loss of freedom through unlawful seizing of or search of property. If police officers do not uphold the Fourth Amendment, then a citizen can make a claim of police brutality.
The Fourteenth Amendment
The Fourteenth Amendment says, “The State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person without its jurisdiction the equal protections of the laws.” The “due process” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizens the right to appear in front of the court. Excessive force violations fall into this category because they unfairly affect or punish a citizen before they have had their day in court.
There are federal laws that limit the circumstances where it is appropriate for a police officer to use force. They may only use force to protect themselves, to protect other citizens, and to keep public order when they are threatened. If someone refuses to comply with a police officer’s commands, then the officer can use force to keep public order.
Civil Rights Act of 1871
The Civil Rights Act of 1871 was written as a law to protect freed African American slaves from organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. It allows for the interference of any rights guaranteed by the Constitution. It has become a very empowering argument in police brutality cases.
What are Section 1983 Cases?
A civil rights law, statute Section 1983 is what most lawyers use to plead in police misconduct cases. First passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1871, it was intended to stop oppressive actions by the government and independent vigilante groups. Section 1983 makes it illegal for any person representing the state law to act against another person’s civil rights under both federal and constitutional law. There are three common claims that are made against police officers.
One claim often made is false arrest. When someone makes a false arrest claim, they maintain that a police officer has violated their Fourth Amendment right prohibiting unreasonable seizure. If an officer has “probable cause,” however, it will not be ruled that the plaintiff’s rights have been violated. Police officers can lawfully arrest someone they suspect may be engaging in criminal activity without having a warrant for a misdemeanor or felony committed.
If the information that the police officer was working with is found to be false, the police officer still cannot be charged with a crime. The only way to prove a false arrest case is to prove that the officer did not have probable cause to make an arrest. Probable cause means that any person in the same situation would reasonably assume that a crime was committed.
To make a malicious prosecution claim, the victim must prove that their Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty has been violated. There are four things that a plaintiff must prove to win a malicious prosecution case:
● The police officer against whom the allegations are made commenced a criminal proceeding
● The proceeding ruled for the victim
● There was no probable cause
● The proceeding was initiated with malice
If the defendant police officer can prove that he had probable cause, then the claim will be denied.
Excessive force cases usually get the most attention. Because they are so egregious, they usually are highly publicized because they generally lead to severe injury or even death. A subjective criteria, the determination of what is “excessive” is based on the facts about the events and its circumstances. The intent of the officer has no bearing on whether they are found guilty of excessive force or not. But if the officer had good intentions and the force is still found to be excessive, then the proceedings will continue.
Failure to Intervene
Law enforcement officials have a duty to protect civilians. Police officers have the obligation to intervene if someone’s constitutional rights are being violated.
The Qualified Immunity Defense
Qualified immunity exists so that police officers aren’t afraid to act due to fear of legal prosecution. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to win a case of police brutality unless there is a clear violation of a person’s civil rights. Whatever the police officer did to prevent an individual from doing something illegal is protected, unless it goes against the person’s civil rights.
To win a civil rights violation case, the plaintiff must be able to prove that what the police officer did went outside of reasonable bounds, violated the rights provided to them by the Constitution, and that the officer’s actions resulted in damages or injuries.
Cases brought against law enforcement officials are highly expensive because there is a lot of data collection, sifting through documents, statements by police officers, and any other eyewitness accounts to prove that a person’s civil rights were clearly violated.
How does discrimination play into police brutality?
It is unlawful to discriminate against anyone based on certain characteristics that an individual possesses. Discrimination can happen against any race, gender or group and include things like age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, ethnicity, and disability. According to statistics compiled by Mapping Police Violence, African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement agents than Caucasians. Also, in cases where African Americans are involved, 30% of those fatally wounded were unarmed at the time of the crime as compared to 21% of white victims, although statistics vary from one state to another.
Racial profiling is suspecting someone of wrongdoing simply based on the color of their skin. Although it would seem to be an illegal practice, there are 20 states that still have not specifically prohibited racing profiling by law enforcement. Even those states that have a law against it can have different statutes related to what is and is not legal and allowable. Only 17 states ban pretextual traffic stops, 16 criminalize violations of any anti-profiling laws, and zero states meet all of the NAACP’s guidelines for effectively doing away with the practice of racial profiling. So in many states, it is still legal to assume probable cause based solely on the color of someone’s skin.
What elements you need to prove your Fourth Amendment case
If you feel as if you were illegally seized by law enforcement or a police officer, it is possible to make a claim against them and recover for any damages or injuries you sustain. According to 42 USC 1983, which is a federal statute, individuals can sue the government if their civil rights have been violated.
The basic elements that you have to prove to win your case for police misconduct are:
● That you suffered a seizure, following how the law defines it
● The seizure was performed by a person that works under government authority, such as law enforcement or a police officer
● The seizure was unreasonably related to the circumstances of your case
● You suffered injuries and damages due to the seizure
Even if you can establish all four components, you will likely still be fighting an uphill battle. That is why you need to have a lawyer on your side who specializes in the vast complexities of police brutality, like the lawyers at USAttorneys.com.
What is a seizure?
The Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Being “seized” is defined as “by means of physical force or a show of authority, his freedom of movement is restrained” (United States v Mendenhall, 446 US 544, 546 (1980)). If the “person to whom questions are put remains free to disregard the questions and walk away, there has been no intrusion upon that person’s liberty or privacy as would under the Constitution require some particularized objective justification.” Id. at 547.
It isn’t just about the detainment of a person; any mechanism that is deployed by a police officer or law enforcement agent to impede a person’s movement can be a seizure in the eyes of the Fourth Amendment.
What is the reasonable requirement?
If the plaintiff can prove that they were seized, the next issue is if the force that was employed by the police officer was “reasonable.” The United States Supreme Court has stated that:
“determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is ‘reasonable’ under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake” (Graham v Connor, 490 US 386, 396 (1989)).
The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Not every push or shove, even if it may seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers, violates the Fourth Amendment. “The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgment – in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation (Id. at 396-397).”
The Court finally concluded that the focus must reside on whether the actions were “objectively reasonable,” not held to a subjective standard. What the law enforcement official believed at the time is irrelevant unless any other “reasonable” officer who encountered the same situation would have likewise reacted in like manner.
The reason proving misconduct is so difficult is that officers are in high-intensity jobs where they are often required to make decisions based on perceived threats. Those threats may or may not exist, but due to past experiences and training, perceived threats by a police officer are different from the general population in some circumstances. Therefore, the reasonableness requirement is shaped around what any other officer would reasonably do in the same scenario.
What are the most likely defenses that lawyers who represent police officers use?
Reasonableness and Qualified Immunity
There are two different defenses that lawyers who defend police officers typically use. They either defend the law enforcement official on the assertion that their actions were reasonable regarding the circumstances they were put into or the assertion that they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Both are hard to determine, with reason. To work effectively at their job, a police officer cannot stop to evaluate their actions being guided by whether or not they will be criminally prosecuted. That not only puts them in danger — it can cause them not to act when they should, and could lead to civilians being injured by their inactivity. If you can prove that they acted outside of what any other “reasonable” officer would do, you would still have to bypass their immunity, which is a very difficult hurdle. That is why if you are going to make a claim about police brutality, you need an experienced police brutality lawyer from USAttorneys.com who specializes in the specifics related to both reasonableness and immunity as they apply to police officers. Unless your lawyer understands the complexity and difficulty of how to win a police brutality lawsuit and receive fair compensation, your chances of winning your case are very slim.
What is the statute of limitations for making a police brutality case?
There is no statute of limitations outlined in 42 USC 1983. The US Supreme Court “requires courts to borrow and apply to all 1983 claims the one most analogous state statute of limitations.” (Owens v Okure, 488 US 235, 240 (1989)). Therefore, the statute of limitations to make a claim depends on the type of suit you are initiating and the law of the state where the claim is made.
What to do if you are a victim of police brutality
It’s a conundrum: when you are hurt by someone else, you would typically call the police. But who do you turn to when the police is responsible for your injuries? The first step is to seek medical attention immediately when warranted. To prove a police misconduct suit, you have to prove that you were in fact injured in some way, either physically or psychologically.
Documentation is everything
When you seek medical attention, you will want to get documentation of the accident including photographs and images. The more angles and positions, the better. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. The images will help to demonstrate that you were injured and the severity of that injury.
Get the names of any eyewitnesses or other people involved
One of the best ways to prove police misconduct cases is by providing proof through either video of the incident or through having people testify to the events that they witnessed. Before you leave the scene, make sure to get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident.
Contact a professional USAttorneys.com lawyer specializing in police brutality
If you are the victim of police brutality, it is imperative that you find a lawyer who is an expert in the complexities related to winning your case. Depending on what type of damages you are seeking, your lawyer will need to know how to handle such an involved case. Whether you make a constitutional argument or seek personal injury compensation, not just any lawyer will do.
Being the victim of police brutality is one of the hardest claims to prove in a court of law. If you want to make a claim, it is a hard road ahead. But that does not mean that you can’t win. It only means that you have to have the right police brutality lawyer in your corner. Contact us today to discuss your case – our attorneys know the laws, how to plead your case and how to get you the compensation you need.