What are the Police Brutality Laws in the US?

Police officers are breaking the law if they use excessive or unnecessary force in the line of duty. According to the organization Mapping Police Violence, 1,126 persons were killed by police in 2020 alone.

Police brutality laws allow the use of lethal force only as a last resort. Yet, recently several unarmed black individuals died due to the use of excessive and deadly force by police officers, including George Floyd, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, and others.

If you suffered injuries or a loved one died due to the indefensible actions of law enforcement officers, Morgan & Morgan could help. You might be entitled to damages. Contact us now to find out about your options for free.

More answers to commonly asked questions

Police brutality describes the excessive or unnecessary use of physical force and violence by law enforcement. Police brutality can cause devastating mental and physical injuries, as well as fatalities. Excessive force and violence issues in law enforcement can potentially arise due to inadequate training, systemic racism, and other reasons.  

Examples of Police Brutality

Police brutality can encompass various actions and behaviors, some of which violate fundamental human rights. Acts of police brutality can include beatings, killings, torture, racial abuse, and unlawful detention by police. Other actions that could constitute illegal police brutality can include:

  • Intimidation
  • Threats of violence
  • Racial profiling and other discriminatory acts
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Assault and battery
  • Negligent police chases
  • Coerced confession
  • Unwarranted use of tasers or firearms
  • Denial of medical assistance
  • Sexual assault or abuse
  • Wrongful death

When police officers cross the line and use more force than warranted, individuals’ rights are violated. If police brutality caused you harm, whether psychologically, physically, or financially, you deserve justice. Our compassionate and dedicated attorneys are here to help.

If a law enforcement officer violated your civil rights or you are a victim of police brutality, the law can and should be on your side. Federal laws dealing with the issue of police brutality can include:

10 CFR § 1047.7 - Use of Deadly Force

According to 10 CFR § 1047.7, the use of deadly force is only authorized in some circumstances, including in the following:


Deadly force may be reasonable when law enforcement officers reasonably believe that they are in imminent danger of death or serious injury.

Serious Offenses Against Individuals

Deadly force could be used reasonably when trying to prevent a serious offense against a person in danger of imminent death or serious injury. 

Apprehension of a Person

Deadly force could be justified when apprehending or preventing the escape of a dangerous person reasonably believed to have committed a major offense or have escaped by use of a weapon or explosive. Deadly force may also be reasonable when an individual poses a serious threat of death or significant injury to the public or law enforcement officers unless apprehended immediately.

Moreover, if the use of a firearm becomes necessary, a law enforcement officer should give a warning such as an order to stop, if possible, before firing a shot.

Title 18 of the United States Code 

U.S. Code Title 18 can be relevant to numerous forms of police brutality, such as:

  • Excessive force
  • Intimidation
  • The improper use of pepper spray

Under Title 18, citizens are also protected from law enforcement keeping them from expressing or invoking their constitutional rights. 

Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Under Title 6 law, local and state law enforcement officers act unlawfully when discriminating against individuals based on their color, race, nationality, gender, or religion. Persons who have suffered ill-treatment by law enforcement can potentially sue in civil court.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

The ADA generally prohibits police misconduct or discrimination against citizens with disabilities. The ADA could apply in the following situations, among others:

  • Unlawful detention by police
  • Use of excessive force or violence when arresting a disabled person
  • Failing to accommodate an individual’s disability
  • Detaining a person due to the unreasonable belief that their disability constitutes evidence of having committed a crime

Under the ADA, individuals who suffered from unreasonable police brutality can file civil lawsuits.

The laws mentioned above can offer protection in a variety of different circumstances that involve improper police conduct, including but not limited to:

  • Addressing complaints by individuals
  • Booking, holding, and arresting a suspect
  • Prison conditions
  • Use of force

There are numerous laws that can protect those who have suffered mistreatment by the police. If you or a loved one are affected, do not hesitate to contact our law firm to find out about your options for getting justice.

The Fourth Amendment 

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution provides that no individual should be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures of property or their person. The Fourth Amendment also protects citizens from arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention by police.

The Fifth Amendment 

The Fifth Amendment, among other provisions, protects individuals from incriminating themselves. If arrested, a suspect must be read their Miranda rights and can remain silent if they so choose. If police officers coerce a suspect to a confession, fail to read them their Miranda rights or interview them without an attorney, they could be held to account for violating Fifth Amendment rights.

The Eighth Amendment 

The Eighth Amendment states that no individual should suffer from “cruel and unusual punishment,” which could be interpreted by a court to describe excessive and unreasonable force in police brutality cases. 

The Fourteenth Amendment 

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees citizens the right to due process. The amendment asserts that no individual should be deprived of their liberty, property, or life without due legal process. This includes protection from false imprisonment and unlawful seizure, similarly to provisions under the Fourth Amendment.

It is important to note that officers are generally entitled to use force, even deadly force, if required to protect themselves and others. Getting hurt due to resisting arrest or fleeing from a police officer is unlikely to result in legal recourse or compensation for a suspect. However, if you and your attorney can prove that an officer used excessive and unreasonable force against you, and you suffered harm as a result, you could recover damages. 

While compensation will depend on your individual case, damages, and injuries, you could potentially be entitled to awards for:

  • Physical and emotional suffering
  • Humiliation
  • Inconvenience
  • Healthcare expenses
  • Damage to your property
  • Lost income

Evidence That Could Help to Prove Your Case

If you have suffered harm due to police brutality and are looking to sue, the burden of proof will be on you, the plaintiff.  Specifically, you will have to show that the level of force or other behavior by a police officer was unreasonable. Some jurisdictions ask for “clear and convincing” evidence of police brutality in a lawsuit. Evidence helping to prove your case can include:

  • The officer’s body camera footage
  • Nearby CCTV camera recordings
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Medical reports proving your injuries 
  • Expert witness testimony

Suing the government can be a complicating and daunting task. However, a police brutality lawyer at Morgan & Morgan can gather the evidence you need to prove your case and leave no stone unturned in fighting for justice on your behalf.

A police officer must have a good reason to stop and search you in the street. Citizens generally have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by the police. However, if a police officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person is involved in criminal activity, they can lawfully stop and frisk an individual. 

It is important to note that even if there is no reasonable suspicion, a police officer can ask you questions or ask to search your property. However, you are generally not required to answer those questions or allow a search. While it can be in your best interests to cooperate fully with a police officer, if there is no reasonable suspicion or another reason to stop and search you, you could simply walk away.

Law enforcement officers have the authority to use reasonable force when going about their duties, which can include, among others:

  • Making investigatory stops
  • Making arrests 
  • Serving warrants
  • Detaining suspects

When police officers cross the line and abuse their powers, for example, by using excessive force or violence, injured individuals generally have legal recourse. Questions to consider when trying to determine whether an officer acted unreasonably can include: 

  • Did the suspect pose a significant threat to the safety of the general public or law enforcement officers?
  • How serious was the alleged crime? 
  • Did the suspect try to flee from law enforcement?
  • Did the suspect actively resist arrest?

While an officer is entitled to use the amount of force necessary and reasonable to detain or arrest an individual, if they overstep the mark, they could be responsible for a victim’s damages.

Each state has different laws and statutes determining the timeframe for filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, when it comes to a claim against law enforcement, there will most likely be additional steps and considerations. In some jurisdictions, you may have to file a notice with the local government before you can commence with a lawsuit. You might also have to file a report with the police department responsible. 

Generally, the sooner you act and seek legal advice, the better. Failing to adhere to the strict deadlines and specific requirements for suing your local law enforcement could leave you unable to recover the compensation you deserve. An attorney from our firm can help you with all aspects of your case and ensure you do not miss any important deadlines.

An individual’s financial situation should not determine whether they can access adequate legal representation and advice. We believe that everyone who has suffered from police brutality is entitled to have a seasoned attorney in their corner to protect their legal rights and fight for the justice and compensation they deserve.

Therefore, when Morgan & Morgan handles your case, you pay nothing unless and until we win and you recover damages.

Suing a law enforcement officer can be much tougher than suing a private individual or a business. Most states have specific laws providing immunity to public employees such as police officers. However, an experienced attorney can help you prove that a law enforcement officer acted in bad faith or used excessive force or violence, in which case immunity may not apply. 

Moreover, law enforcement institutions have a tendency to protect their own and could even try to cover up police brutality and mistreatment. However, our dedicated attorneys can help to build a case on your behalf and potentially hold a reckless police officer or department to account for their actions.

 We can help in various ways, such as:

  • Assessing your case and clarifying your legal rights
  • Discussing your options for filing a complaint against an officer
  • Determining whether you could file a civil suit for damages
  • Working for you on a “no-win-no-fee” basis
  • Representing you aggressively in court

If you are the victim of police brutality and suffered physical, emotional, or financial consequences, you do not have to battle for justice on your own. Our experienced attorneys have helped numerous victims of brutal police officers and know how to hold those responsible accountable for egregious mistreatment. 

If you have suffered at the hands of a police officer or other law enforcement personnel, you could receive compensation for your ordeal. Our lawyers are devoted to helping victims of police brutality defend their legal rights. Take action today and contact us for a free review of your case.