The number of police brutality, misconduct and excessive force cases has soared in the past few years. It's a touchy subject, one that's getting a lot of attention, and for good reason.
Police misconduct can include anything from making a false arrest to using excessive force on suspects. Unfortunately, we are now living in a time where there is a growing mistrust of law enforcement, due in part to a few instances that played out on the media for all to see, and judge. The spotlight is fixed on officers and law enforcement and we're seeing more lawsuits than ever before.
A Wall Street Journal study found the nation's ten largest municipal police departments paid out a combined $248 million in 2014 alone. That is up nearly 50% since 2010.
In years past, the burden of proof needed was hard to come by. That is not the case any longer with the inclusion of more dashboard and body cameras being used by departments across the country. Cell phones videos can be seen all over social media documenting alleged incidents of police misconduct. All of which can be used in a lawsuit.
Police Misconduct: Qualified Immunity
If you are thinking about suing law enforcement there are a few important things you need to understand. The first is qualified immunity. Basically, this means police officers cannot be sued for any actions they took while on the job, as long as those duties were reasonably performed. Qualified immunity is designed to allow police officers and other members of law enforcement to do their job without fear or worry of being sued at the drop of a hat.
Qualified immunity does not always apply, though. For example, if your constitutional rights were violated by an officer or if they acted in such a way that was unwarranted/unreasonable that resulted in an injury or harm, immunity would not apply.
Federal law prohibits police officers or employee of the government to act under "the color of the law" to deprive another person of his or her constitutional rights. Those who violate this law can be held responsible criminally and civilly. This law is referred to as "Section 1983" and allows victims to file suit against law enforcement in federal court.
A few of the constitutional rights people can sue for in accordance with section 1983 are:
- failure to provide adequate medical attention
- false arrest
- wrongfully convicted
- victim of excessive force
- being the target of malicious prosecution
These types of cases can become very complicated and sometimes can evolve into civil rights cases. To "win" your case, the plaintiff must provide evidence proving his or her constitutional rights were infringed upon.
There are also varying laws in each state when it comes to filing suit against a police department. Just as any other personal injury case, each set of circumstances is unique so it is imperative you speak with an attorney about your case.