How to Handle Police Brutality

How to Handle Police Brutality

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How to Handle Police Brutality

Law enforcement officers take an oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of their state and faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of police officers. That's why they are hired. To ensure their community is safe and to protect citizens. Of course, sometimes, they find themselves in dangerous situations and need to use force to place people under arrest. However, there is a fine line between the use of force and excessive force. 

The majority of police officers do their best to respect the constitutional rights of all and perform their job ethically to preserve public trust. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a fundamental legal principle and should be decided in a court of law, not by a solitary police officer. When police use excessive force in detaining an individual they suspect of committing a crime, they are breaking the very laws they swore to uphold. No one should have to learn how to handle police brutality on their own.

If police review boards or internal measures don't stop police officers from abusing their position, civil lawsuits are a way to send a strong message. Our police brutality lawyers are ready to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve for being the victim of police misconduct.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What civil rights does police brutality violate?

    Civil rights are part of our constitution and allow people to live freely within our democracy. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act provides a means to sue state government employees and others that act "under color of state law" for civil rights violations. Section 1983 was enacted in 1871 to ensure legal recourse against oppressive groups like the Klu Klux Klan and corrupt government officials. They were violating the rights and liberties of formerly enslaved people. Civil rights claims that are commonly brought under this law include:

    • Excessive use of force
    • Unreasonable use of force
    • False arrest
    • Sexual assault by a police officer
    • No use of verbal commands
    • Causing unnecessary injury
    • Injuring restrained suspects

    Excessive or unreasonable use of force - Excessive use of force by police is an all too common civil rights violation. We often hear of this on the news because it frequently results in severe harm coming to the victim. No one will soon forget the shameful and outrageous death of George Floyd. Many other victims have been murdered because a police officer decides to shoot first and ask questions later. When a civil claim for excessive use of force is brought before the courts, it will examine the circumstances of the event to decide if the use of force was reasonable or not. Furthermore, it will examine the motivations and intentions behind the police officer's actions.

    False arrest - The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure. While a police officer can arrest a person without a warrant, they still have to demonstrate probable cause to make the arrest. Sometimes, after an arrest, the police officer will discover the suspect is innocent. Still, suppose they made the arrest believing the suspect was guilty based on their information at the time. In that case, they'll not likely be liable for false arrest. It's up to you and your lawyer to prove the police officer acted without authority or beyond the scope of their powers.

    Sexual assault by a police officer - Persons in police custody has a right to bodily integrity. Nonconsensual sexual contact deprives a person of their liberty. Sexual misconduct by a police officer includes rape, sexual contact by force or threat of force, and unwanted sexual touching or groping. To prove sexual assault by a police officer, you and your lawyer have to prove you did not consent to the contact and were forced or coerced into submission. Coercion can include threats of false charges or threats that you would suffer unjust punishment.

    No use of verbal commands - If an officer forgets or chooses not to communicate with a suspect but instead goes straight to use of physical force, this could be considered police brutality. For example, say a suspect is coming out to surrender, but they have a gun in their hands. If the arresting officer chooses to shoot instead of telling the suspect to lay down the gun, that could be considered police brutality.

    Causing unnecessary injury - Hurting a suspect unnecessarily violates civil rights. For example, suppose a suspect kicks a police officer. In that case, the police officer should restrain the suspect, not shoot them or beat them with a weapon.

    Injuring restrained suspects - Once a suspect is restrained, there is no reason for a police officer to hurt the individual because they no longer pose a threat. We've all seen crazy videos of cops kicking and punching people who've already been restrained on the ground and handcuffed. The abuse of restrained suspects could be a violation of civil rights.

  • Can you sue the police for emotional distress?

    To sue the police for emotional distress, you have to prove they intentionally or recklessly caused emotional injury or caused emotional injury because of a negligent act. However, it will be up to the courts to decide if the police acted outside the scope of their duties. Merely yelling, being rude, or uncaring typically won't rise to the level required to win a claim for emotional distress. In some states, a claim for emotional distress also requires physical injury.

  • What is the most common type of police brutality?

    It's important to understand that police officers can use force to bring suspects under control. Use of force may be necessary if the suspect has a weapon or has a history of violence. However, the use of force must be reasonable, which means how another reasonable officer would respond under the same circumstances. Using unnecessary force can include, but is not limited to the following:

    • Unwarranted use of tasers
    • Unwarranted use of batons
    • Unjustified use of a firearm
    • Chokeholds
    • Unlawful takedowns
    • Indiscriminate use of riot control agents
    • Torture
    • Excessive use of tear gas, pepper spray, and water
  • What are our constitutional protections against police brutality?

    The American Constitution offers protections against police brutality under the following amendments:

    Fourth Amendment - The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from "unreasonable" search and seizure. Usually, searches and seizures require a warrant issued by a judge. However, police officers are acting within the scope of their duties if they have probable cause that a crime has been committed even without a warrant. 

    Fifth Amendment - The Fifth Amendment protects us from making self-incriminating statements. We often hear people "taking the fifth" when questioned by government officials. When a person is arrested, they must be read their "Miranda" rights, including the "right to remain silent."

    Eighth Amendment - The Eighth Amendment protects us from "cruel and unusual punishment," which is unfair punishments that don't fit the crime. When a police officer decides to dispense their own justice instead of allowing the suspect their " due process," it violates their civil rights. Indeed, the senseless killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, for carrying a pellet gun would be considered cruel and unusual.

    Fourteenth Amendment - Along with the Fifth Amendment's protection for "due process," the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no person shall be denied life, liberty, or property until the due process of law takes its course. 

  • What are some police brutality statistics?

    • According to Statista, in 2020, there were 1,021 fatal police shootings, with Black Americans being the victims at a much higher rate than any other ethnicity. 
    • From 2013 to 2020, police killed more than 9,000 U.S. civilians, at an average of nearly 1,100 per year.
    • The states with the highest percentage of police shootings are New Mexico, Alaska, and Oklahoma.
    • 66% of the children killed due to police shootings were black, Native American, Asian, or Latino.
    • People with untreated mental issues are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.
    • There were only 15 days in 2021 when police did not kill anyone in the U.S.
    • Out of 434 cases of police shooting civilians, at least 16 of those police officers had shot or killed someone previously, and 5 had multiple prior shootings.
    • Most killings occurred when officers responded to suspected non-violent offenses or instances when no crime was reported. One hundred seventeen people were killed after being stopped due to a traffic violation.
  • How to handle police brutality through civil measures

    If you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, you have a right to sue the federal government under Section 1983 of the United States Code. This is called a "1983 Action." Our police brutality lawyers will work with you to make sure you meet the requirements for such an action which are as follows:

    Proving the officer acted "under color of" state or local law - We must show a judge that the police officer was guilty of brutality while working for the federal government. That may mean the wrongdoer was on duty, in a police uniform, or using police equipment. 

    The right to file a claim - You or your loved one must be a citizen of the U.S. or another person within the jurisdiction of the state. 

    A violation of a right - You  must have been deprived of a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or a right guaranteed by your state's constitution, such as the right for due process, the right to not self-incriminate, or the right to be free from illegal search and seizure.

    In a civil case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. Typically, in a civil case, the standard of proof is not as high as in a criminal case. However, when it comes to police brutality, you have to show "clear and convincing evidence," which is still not as tough as the criminal standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." Yet it's tougher than a " preponderance of the evidence," which is usually the standard in a civil case which means the defendant was "more likely than not" in the wrong. 

  • What kind of compensation can I get for a police brutality lawsuit?

    As with any personal injury case, the amount of compensation you may receive will depend on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances surrounding the event. You can sue for the following:

    Medical bills - Any medical costs you incurred from your injury can be recovered, including surgery, doctor visits, and any kind of therapy needed, including emotional therapy.

    Lost wages - If you missed out on work because of false arrest or injury, you're entitled to recover your wages.

    Pain and suffering - When an officer violates your civil rights and causes injury and emotional distress, you have the right to be compensated for it.

    Punitive damages - Because of the nature of police brutality, punitive damages are often awarded as a warning message to deter other police officers from doing the same. It's a measure to protect the people of our country, but it's paid to the plaintiff.

    Wrongful death damages - If a person dies because of police brutality, the family can sue for medical bills, the deceased's pain and suffering, the wages, household services, and companionship the deceased would have given the family, and the cost of the funeral and burial expenses.

    When you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, you have the right to seek compensation. Our police misconduct attorneys are well versed in handling cases such as yours. When going up against powerful government institutions, you need expert legal counsel with the resources to fight against corrupt officers. We deliver just that. We believe that no one is above the law. We work to protect your rights and get you the financial compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. 

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