Four Types Of Civil Rights Claims That Can Be Brought Against Police Departments
Although the duties of police officers can be quite difficult and demanding, there is never a valid excuse for handling assigned tasks in an abusive or harassing manner. Even when people being questioned or arrested become agitated or defensive, professionally trained officers must use the least amount of force necessary to bring them under better control. Chokeholds should never be used and tear gas, tasers and rubber bullets should only be employed when the lives of police officers are directly threatened – or mob violence and looting continue after verbal warnings.
Our law firm understands the full range of constitutional rights every citizen has and we’re prepared to defend clients and seek damages to compensate them after any police officer or other law enforcement official violates their rights by physically harming or legal harassing them.
What follows is a general overview of four specific types of civil rights claims that can be brought against police departments, various governmental entities, and those they employ. No American citizen should ever be subjected to police use of excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution or an illegal search or seizure.
How is “excessive force” defined when referring to police brutality or misconduct?
The Legal Information Institute states that excessive force is used when any police officer decides to use more force than is reasonably necessary while carrying out assigned duties. When this issue comes up during court trials, our legal system views it as a “factual issue” that must be evaluated and determined by a jury.
Police officers are often required to respond to sudden physical behavior that they may believe poses an immediate risk of great harm or death to them. However, in a civilized society, we have the right to expect law enforcement to receive enough proper (and ongoing) training to only use the least amount of force required – especially when suspects are clearly not armed. We must attempt to place some limits on police officer behavior – or no one will be able to maintain a reasonable expectation of safety when being questioned by police – regardless of their age, race, gender, or perceived sexual identity.
While there may be limited situations when the police should be allowed to claim some degree of immunity – a free, democratic society must normally require them to prove why they acted in specific ways when suspects have been killed – or left suffering with serious physical injuries.
What constitutes the civil rights violation known as “false arrest?”
This type of civil wrong occurs when a police officer (or another party) unlawfully restrains an individual’s freedom of movement or personal liberty — while claiming that the restraint is based on a valid law. At times, the term “false arrest” is used interchangeably with the tort known as “false imprisonment.”
It may help to distinguish between these two terms by noting that a false arrest can only be committed by someone who claims to be taking certain actions based on some degree of legal authority already conferred upon that person (like a police officer). In contrast, a false imprisonment may take place when someone is unlawfully confined – unrelated to any claim of legal authority to confine others for any purpose.
When a police officer arrests a suspect without probable cause – or based on any reasonable belief that any wrong has been committed – that officer can be held liable for false arrest.
During the recent riots that occurred after the death of George Floyd in police custody, many protesters may have been falsely arrested – when all they were doing was exercising their First Amendment rights in a peaceful, law-abiding manner.
What police or law enforcement behavior constitutes “malicious prosecution?”
This type of civil rights action for damages can only be brought after you have been unsuccessfully prosecuted for an alleged civil or criminal wrong. This type of event might occur after you were simply protesting in a public place – while others in radically different attire looted nearby stores. An angry and defiant cop (eager to take control), might handcuff and arrest you — even though you were not dressed like the looters — just to feel like justice was done.
You could then be charged and held in jail for a trial. If the prosecutor failed to present a convincing case, you would then be released. At that time, you could then pursue a lawsuit against the arresting officer for “malicious prosecution.”
One of the few positive aspects of there being so many cameras constantly monitoring activity in public places — is that tapes can often show that a specific, arrested person was never in the immediate vicinity where a known crime was committed.
In these types of cases, many of the accused parties cannot afford bail and can easily lose extensive wages (or their jobs) while being detained in jail, awaiting trial. The recovery amounts in these types of civil rights cases can often wind up being quite large – especially if the accused individuals were also physically injured by the police.
What constitutes an illegal search and seizure?
This often occurs when the police search your home or car without your voluntary, express permission. The Legal Information Institute states that an illegal search and seizure takes place whenever law enforcement officers conduct a search and seizure with a search warrant – or probable cause to believe that some evidence of a crime is present in the searched area.
Far too often, poorly trained, or irresponsible law enforcement officers will tell someone they’ve just met during a traffic stop that they must be allowed to search that person’s vehicle. However, if the cop does not have a search warrant and there are no open, visible containers of alcohol – or drugs or weapons in clear view when the officer glances in the vehicle — then any search that follows without your permission is an illegal search and seizure.
This same type of event can sometimes take place when police officers go to a home – perhaps after receiving a domestic violence complaint – and demand to search the premises. If the cops do not have a search warrant and could not see any illegal weapons or drugs while standing at the door talking to the couple, they usually cannot search the home.
The police must respect the Fourth Amendment rights of all citizens by never conducting any searches or seizures in an unlawful manner.
Americans have numerous other civil rights that our law firm is fully prepared to defend when those rights are unlawfully infringed upon by the police and cause clear harm.
If you have suffered serious physical harm or major economic damages due to malicious prosecution or any other abuses of your civil rights, you need to immediately contact our New York City civil rights abuse law firm for help. After accepting your case, we will conduct a thorough investigation of all the relevant facts. Our firm will then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available to help you recover for all your lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and other losses.