HAVE YOU BEEN THE VICTIM OF POLICE BRUTALITY?

We hear a lot in the news about police officers abusing their power and committing acts of police brutality. As a general rule, law enforcement officials have a lot of power to carry out their duties as they see fit. However, the Constitution and other federal and state laws place limits on just how far a police officer can go when attempting to enforce the law. Unfortunately, some officers go too far, so far as to violate the rights of citizens. When this happens, the victim may have the right to recourse through state and federal laws. Our civil rights dictate that we should all be protected from abuse by the government, and this includes police misconduct.

WHAT IS POLICE BRUTALITY?

This is a common term used to describe what happens if an innocent citizen is harmed or dies during a police arrest, search, or other police encounter. Police officers are prohibited by federal law from depriving a person of any right guaranteed by the Constitution. The right most often at stake in police brutality cases is the right to be free from excessive force. Law enforcement officers have the right to use reasonable force, but there is a fine line between reasonable and unreasonable.

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 was intended to curb oppressive government conduct and that of private individuals who participate in vigilante groups. The law is now known as Section 1983. It makes it illegal for a person acting under state authority to deprive another person of his or her rights under federal law. Other laws that offer protection include the following:

  • The Fourth Amendment: This law protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Police brutality claims involving excessive force during investigation or arrest involve Fourth Amendment rights.
  • The Eighth Amendment: This law protects inmates from punishment that is cruel and unusual. Police brutality that occurs after a person has already been convicted and incarcerated will involve Eighth Amendment rights.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment: This law protects pre-trial detainees who have been charged with a crime against the use of excessive force that could be considered punishment. When a person is confined to jail while waiting on trial and is the victim of police brutality, it will likely involve the violation of Fourteenth Amendment rights.

TYPES OF POLICE BRUTALITY

Police brutality that we often hear of in the news often comes in the form of Fourth Amendment violations when the person is mistreated during arrest. However, there are a variety of other things that may be considered police brutality including, but not limited to, the following:

  • False Arrest: This is a claim that is often placed against police for unreasonable seizure. However, this claim cannot be made if the officer had probable cause to believe the individual committed a crime. Even if the information on which the officer based the arrest turned out to be false, the officer is still not liable if he or she believed the information to be true at the time of the arrest. To prevail on this type of claim, the victim must show that the officer did not have a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed.
  • Malicious Prosecution: This claims that the officer wrongly deprived a person of the Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty. To prove this claim, the victim must show that the police officer started criminal proceedings, the proceedings ended in favor of the victim, the proceedings were brought toward the victim with malicious intent, and there was no probable cause.
  • Excessive Force: This claim gets the most publicity because it is easy to appear outrageous and may result in serious injury or even death. Whether the use of force was reasonable depends on a variety of circumstances and facts.
  • Failure to Intervene: This claim arises because police officers have a duty to protect individuals from violations of the constitution by other law enforcement officers. If a police officer witnesses another officer violating an individual’s constitutional rights, the officer may be held liable for failure to intervene.

QUALIFIED IMMUNITY DEFENSE

When filing a claim for police brutality, the defense attorney for the police officer will likely raise the defense of qualified immunity. This defense was created to keep law enforcement officials from fearing prosecution when they do their job and enforce the law. This defense will work when an officer’s conduct did not clearly violate a statutory or constitutional right.

In order to win a claim for a civil rights violation, the victim must prove the actions of the law enforcement officer exceeded reasonable boundaries and infringed on the victim’s rights and produced damages or some type of injury. These claims can be costly because extensive evidence must be secured such as police statements, records, witness statements, and other documentation.

If you have been injured, take photos of the damages and injuries caused by law enforcement officials and save your clothing and other objects that are stained with blood or torn by the incident. Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses and make your own written account of the event as soon as you can so you do not forget the important details.

OVERCOMING THE IMMUNITY DEFENSE

As long as a police officer is performing his or her job within the law, there is no violation of rights. Mere negligence to exercise due care is likely not enough to create a liability. Civil rights remedies only come into play when there are willful violations during police conduct that violates a person’s constitutional rights.

Civil rights are an important part of the legal system that provides a balance between the duty of law enforcement officials to uphold laws and the rights of an individual to be free from police misconduct. Still, these cases can be extremely difficult which is why you need an experienced police brutality attorney on your side.

If you feel like you have been the victim of police brutality or some other kind of police misconduct, the attorneys at Jonathan R. Brockman, a personal injury law firm, can help. We will evaluate your situation and help you understand your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our conveniently located Georgia locations.

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