Police Misconduct is a serious problem affecting our national security. Despite the existence of numerous state and federal laws, we are confronted with the specter of Police Misconduct on an almost daily basis in the United States. Whether it is excessive use of force, unlawful arrest, unlawful seizures, or racial profiling, we will fight to protect your civil rights and hold Police Officers, Departments, and even their local governments accountable for abuses of power.
§ 1983 and Police Misconduct
42 U.S.C. § 1983 penalizes any person who acts under color of law, to deprive a U.S. citizen of any of their rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws. § 1983 was passed to protect African-Americans from the Ku Klux Klan, and State discrimination during Reconstruction. Today, this law is used to seek justice against abusive Police Officers.
If you have been a victim of an unreasonable search and seizure, which includes the use of excessive force, you have a right to compensation for your injuries.
Police Misconduct and Monell Liability
A Monell Claim is a §1983 claim against a governmental or municipal entity, such as a city, town, village, police department, etc. Local government entities may be sued for deprivation of a right under § 1983, provided they are not acting as an arm of the state.
There are Four primary theories of governmental liability used under §1983:
- An officially adopted or promulgated policy which deprives citizens of a right;
- A custom or practice that is not officially adopted or promulgated, but is so pervasive and long-standing that it operates as a de facto policy which deprives citizens of clearly established rights;
- A failure to train, supervise, discipline, screen, etc., which deprives citizens of clearly established rights; and
- A particular decision or act made by someone who is a final decision-maker, that culminates in a deprivation of clearly established rights.
§ 1983 Claims, and Governmental Liability cases are very difficult to establish and litigate. These cases almost always contain issues of Governmental Immunity, and require experts, and extensive litigation to resolve lawsuits.
Police Misconduct Actionable Under § 1983
Police Brutality is a form of Police Misconduct which encompasses several different acts; an outright assault on a person without any justification, an excessive use of force during an otherwise legal encounter, falsifying or planting evidence, illegal searches and seizures, and many other acts. Each of these violations can significantly harm citizens in police encounters by resulting in an improper arrest, the filing of inappropriate charges (overcharging), and serious physical harm including death.
Excessive Use of Force
The Excessive Use of Force is unconstitutional in every state in America. The legal standard for determining whether the force used in making an arrest, detention, or seizure of a person, is an objective standard of reasonableness. This means that legally, what the officer personally believed was appropriate (subjective) the deciding factor; what ultimately matters is what a reasonable person in the officer's shoes would have done (objective).
In order to determine if a use of force was objectively reasonable, the court must balance an individual's Fourth Amendment interests' against the the government's interest. The type of governmental interests considered by a court are the unique factual circumstances that gave rise to the use of force, such as: the severity of the crime suspected, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the police officer or bystanders, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee from police custody.
It is important to understand that courts do not judge the reasonableness of a use of force with the benefit of hindsight. A judge will essentially consider what a reasonable police officer at the scene, with the same information as the police officer involved in the use of force controversy, would have conducted themselves. Nevertheless, the use of force on someone who is incapacitated, compliant, or otherwise poses no threat is excessive and violates the constitutional rights of the victim.
All arrests must be founded on probable cause. An arrest lacking probable cause is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and a victim can recover compensation under § 1983. In order to prevail on a False Arrest claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the police lacked probable cause to arrest them.
Police have probable cause to arrest whenever there are facts and circumstances shown that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Probable cause does not require any proof of a crime having been committed, but only that there is a sufficient probability that one has, is, or will be committed. Just like with the use of force, probable cause and probability of criminal activity is assessed under an objective reasonableness standard based upon all of the facts and circumstances known by the police officer at the time of an arrest. Courts do not analyze probable cause from hindsight, but rather what a reasonable police officer at the scene, armed with the same facts as the officer involved would have done.
If you have been a victim of Police Brutality, or some other form of Police Misconduct, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and effective Civil Rights Attorney.
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