Suing for Police Brutality: Know the Facts

Suing for Police Brutality

Victims of rough treatment by police officers often wonder whether suing for police brutality is an option. The answer depends on the details of an individual case. Police brutality cases often involve complex and sensitive laws and require familiarity with courtroom procedure and the legal system.

Because of the complexities of police brutality cases, victims of police brutality often enlist the help of a personal injury lawyer to help protect their rights in court.

What Is Police Brutality?

In legal contexts, police brutality refers to the crime of “savage cruelty” by police officers. Brutality may manifest as physical, verbal or psychological abuse, during either an arrest or an interrogation.

Laws at the federal, state and local level protect citizens from police brutality. If a victim of police brutality can demonstrate in civil court that brutality occurred, the victim may be eligible for compensation from the officer responsible and the county or state for which the officer worked.

What Types of Police Brutality Exist?

Most often, police brutality cases involve police officers doing one of the following:

  • Excessive force during an arrest: While police are legally allowed to use some force for their jobs, there are legal limits to what they can do. Excessive force (that is, force that exceeds what is reasonably required, as defined by state laws) may be considered police brutality.
  • Illegal search and seizure: The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects U.S. citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. The “unreasonable” may disappear if a peace officer has probable cause; in that case, both search and seizure may be permissible.
  • Coerced confession: Physical, verbal and psychological intimidation tactics to elicit a confession are all prohibited.
  • Unlawful arrest (“false arrest”): False arrests include arrests without probable cause by police officers, unlawful detainments by private security officers and retail employees, and arrests conducted by civilians pretending to be police officers.
  • Police torture: Torture is generally defined as causing intense mental or physical pain in order to achieve some goal.

How Do Police Brutality Lawsuits Work?

Police brutality suits fall under the umbrella of personal injurylawsuits and as such are regulated at the state level. Though laws vary across the country, suing for police brutality may involve:

  • Contacting a citizen review board: In many jurisdictions, independent panels of citizens review and investigate police brutality claims. A citizen review board may help a victim learn more information about the officer(s) involved, but it usually cannot rule for damages.
  • Suing in civil court: Some victims may proceed to civil court after gathering information from a review board. Civil courts may be able to award a victim with damages, if it finds in the victim’s favor.

People who choose to take a case to civil court may want to proceed with help from an attorney. The laws that govern police brutality cases are often sensitive, statutes of limitations for police brutality claims tend to be short, and plaintiffs may be required to provide evidence and/or present witnesses.

How Do Tasers Affect Police Brutality?

Tasers were initially introduced as a “safe” alternative to guns. But since they have gained popularity around the country, more and more incidents have demonstrated that tasers themselves may not be as “safe” as they were initially proclaimed to be.

According to the manufacturer of tasers, the weapons are intended to subdue “high-risk” individuals who pose a threat to police officers or bystanders. Some research, though, suggests that the majority of taser victims do not pose a serious threat to those around them.

How Can I Sue for Police Brutality?

If you believe you’ve been the victim of police brutality, you may want to connect with a personal injury attorney to discuss your options before any relevant statutes of limitations expire.

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