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What To Do if Police Use Excessive Force

Key Takeaways:

  • Police officers should use the minimum amount of force necessary, depending on the situation.
  • Police can only use lethal force if there is an immediate threat of serious injury or death to themselves or someone else.
  • If the police violate your rights, you can file a civil rights lawsuit for damages.

Police officers are supposed to follow procedural rules and policies when enforcing the law. Unfortunately, some law enforcement officers don’t follow regulations when it comes to police use of force. Officers may go too far with the use of excessive force.

Police misconduct can cause serious injuries and violate your constitutional rights. If you have questions about using force and criminal law, ask a criminal defense lawyer for legal advice.

What Is Excessive Force?

Officers can use some physical force when detaining a suspect. Depending on the situation, law enforcement agencies may need to immobilize suspects to take them into custody. The level of force should be appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances.

Police officers should use the minimum amount of force justified in the situation to prevent a suspect from fleeing or to prevent injury to others. If an officer uses force over what is necessary to get custody of a suspect or to prevent public harm, the officer may be liable for using excessive force.

Some examples of excessive force include:

  • Applying physical force against a person who is already in custody and not resisting arrest.
  • Using a baton or taser against a person who does not have a weapon.
  • Using force to intimidate a suspect or a witness into giving a statement.

According to the Department of Justice, minorities and people of color were more likely to experience threats or the use of force than others. Of those, more than half felt the use of force was excessive.

Can I Sue the Police for Excessive Force?

If you have been the victim of excessive force or police brutality, you have the right to file a lawsuit for damages. You may be able to bring a lawsuit in federal court for violations of your constitutional rights. This includes your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unreasonable force can also be a civil rights violation of your 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection under the law.

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 allows you to sue for violations of constitutional or federal statutory rights. These civil rights laws were passed in response to racial violence in the post-Civil War South. Section 1983 applies to deprivations of rights that occur “under color of any statute.” This applies to actions taken by state and municipal authorities. This allows victims of police brutality to sue police officers and government agencies.

State statutes may also give you a claim in state court. Many state constitutions have civil rights protections similar to the federal constitution. Police officers generally have qualified immunity against most lawsuits for actions in the line of duty. However, they may lose their immunity if you can show the officer violated a clearly established constitutional right.

If you suffered severe physical injury after a police encounter, you may be able to file a personal injury claim for your injuries. If police use of deadly force resulted in the death of a family member, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim for compensation.

You also have the right to file a complaint and request an investigation with your local police department or review board. A civil rights attorney can help you understand your legal rights to sue the police department under state or federal laws.

When Is Deadly Force Allowed?

The use of deadly force is only allowed in cases of self-defense or defense of others. Depending on state laws, a police officer can only use lethal force when it is necessary to protect against an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another person. For example, an officer can’t shoot a shoplifting suspect who is running away.

What Can You Do if You’re a Victim of Excessive Force?

Excessive police force can have a profound effect on your life. It can cause physical injuries, leaving you with medical bills and time out of work. It could also cause emotional distress. It is essential to understand your rights. You may be able to file a lawsuit for compensation if you believe that you are a victim of police brutality.

If you are facing criminal charges and were seriously injured during the arrest, talk to a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense lawyer can defend you in court and negotiate to reduce the criminal charges. Find a local criminal defense attorney for help with your criminal case.

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