Police misconduct is a serious problem facing our society. Some officers (not all) believe that they are above the law and the badge gives them a license to violate individuals’ constitutional rights. When discussing police brutality, most people remember the case of Rodney King. Mr. King was a motorist in Los Angeles who was beaten by police. This assault was captured on video and Mr. King’s case became a catalyst for citizens to “fight back” against unlawful actions by the police. Police officers still have broad powers in carrying out their duties; however, the Constitution and other laws places limits on that power.
Civil Rights and Police Misconduct
A Federal Statute, commonly referred to as Section 1983, provides the cause of action for citizens to challenge an officer’s conduct. 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 makes it unlawful for anyone one acting under the authority of law to deprive a person of his or her rights under the Constitution or other federal law. Federal law allows an individual who is a victim of a civil rights violation to collect attorney fees, compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Types of Claims
Commonly referred to as police brutality, excessive force is the claim that the police used unreasonable force based upon the surrounding facts and circumstances. Significant physical injury is not required in order to have a claim for excessive force. Some examples of excessive force include:
- Police dog attacks
- Excessive use of taser
- Placing handcuffs too tight
- Punching/kicking suspects
In an attempt to justify the force used, police will often times file criminal charges of resisting law enforcement or battery on law enforcement. While successfully beating the criminal charges is not mandatory to preserve an excessive force civil rights case, a positive outcome will certainly help.
False Arrest/False Imprisonment
One of the most commonly asserted claims against the police is false arrest/false imprisonment. A claim of false arrest asserts that they police violated the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure by arresting an individual without probable cause. Probable cause is facts sufficient for a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed. If it is determined that an officer did have probable cause, then the Fourth Amendment was not violated. The law allows an officer to rely upon information from another person when determining whether there is probable cause. Even if it is determined that the information received was false, the officer is not liable if he believed it to be accurate.
Similar to False Arrest/False Imprisonment, a claim of Malicious Prosecution alleges that a police officer violated the individual’s right to liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. A claim of malicious prosecution requires the individual to prove that an officer initiated criminal proceedings against them without probable cause and with malicious intent.
Stand up for your Rights
A civil rights suit against a police officer can be difficult. Most cases involve substantial evidence that needs to be collected. A demand letter stating that all evidence must be preserved is essential to make sure that video and other forms of evidence are maintained to be available to help prove your case. An experienced attorney is necessary to help assert your rights and navigate through this difficult process. Attorney Russell W. Brown, Jr. Of King, Brown & Murdaugh, LLC has litigated several civil rights cases and has assisted clients in recovering damages. If you believe your rights have been violated by the police, contact Attorney Brown for a free initial consultation.
Russell W. Brown, Jr.
King, Brown & Murdaugh, LLC
Russell Brown Jr. primarily focuses his practice on criminal defense and post-conviction relief. He has helped many clients take advantage of the new expungement laws, providing them a clean slate. Mr. Brown also has experience navigating through the complex laws and administrative regulations of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, assisting clients with obtaining a valid driver’s license.
Mr. Brown’s experience also includes criminal appeals. He has successfully written briefs and participated in oral arguments, obtaining relief for clients. In addition to criminal defense, Mr. Brown also has experience in education and personal injury. When not at the office, Mr. Brown enjoys coaching his son in sports and officiating varsity basketball games in the area.