Police Misconduct: How Do I Sue The Police for Violating Civil Rights?
Sometimes, police officers misuse their authority, leading to mistreatment and excessive use of force against defendants, convicts, and even innocent civilians. Although the police are granted broad powers to maintain public order, they have a responsibility to safeguard and respect the civil rights of all citizens and to prevent misconduct.
If you have been a victim of police misconduct, it is crucial to understand your constitutional rights and seek legal assistance. Our experienced lawyers at Adamson Ahdoot can guide you in filing a claim for police misconduct and help you pursue justice.
What is Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct occurs when law enforcement officers use excessive force or engage in other inappropriate behavior that violates an individual’s rights, such as their right to due process, freedom of speech, and right to privacy.
These actions typically deprive people of their life, liberty, or property. Unfortunately, state actors such as police officers and sheriffs are often responsible for these rights violations.
What Does Civil Rights Mean?
In the United States, everyone is constitutionally entitled to equal treatment under the law. The Constitution protects the civil interests of all citizens and protects their freedom against any violation.
These civil rights are essential to the fabric of our society. Individuals must be treated equitably, given appropriate care, and shielded from any actions taken by government entities. These rights are in place to prevent discrimination based on various factors that make up a person’s identity, such as:
- Race or skin color
- National origin
Who Investigates Police Misconduct?
The Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) ensures fairness and justice in the police department.
Furthermore, the OIA conducts independent investigations of alleged officer misconducts to ensure modesty and decorum.
Police Violence Statistics
Data recently released by the Mapping Police Violence organization showed that in the first few months of 2023, law enforcement officials in the U.S. killed 113 people. This number represents a significant increase of 22 deaths compared to the same period in the previous year.
Moreover, the risk of being killed by law enforcement officials in the United States is unequal across all demographics. Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than white people, and African-Americans are more than 2.5 times more likely to be killed. These groups are also more likely to be seriously injured or shot.
Shootings are the most common cause of police-induced wrongful deaths, with around 250 shootings against citizens yearly.
Common Cases of Civil Rights Violations
Here are some examples of civil rights violations:
Hundreds of people die daily because of gun-related violence. Amnesty International reported 600 mass shooting incidents in the United States in the previous year alone.
According to the ongoing analysis of The Washington Post, the U.S. police shoot and kill more than 1,000 people per year.
A famous example was the 2014 case of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man killed in Ferguson, Missouri. It was later revealed that Brown robbed a convenience store before he was shot.
An arrest involving excessive or unreasonable force can lead to severe physical harm or even death, as demonstrated by the case of David Ordaz Jr.
In 2021, L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies fatally shot Ordaz Jr. in East Los Angeles after he experienced a mental breakdown. Despite being on the ground, Officer Remin Pineda fired up to 12 shots at the victim.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has charged Officer Pineda with assault by a semi-automatic firearm and assault.
Sexual abuse affects thousands of Americans every year, regardless of gender. This type of abuse includes a range of harmful behaviors such as rape, unwanted touching, verbal sexual harassment, and requests for sexual favors.
One prominent sexual harassment case that drew national attention was that of Paula Jones, who alleged that former President Bill Clinton asked her for oral sex in a hotel room.
Although she filed a lawsuit, Paula later withdrew it and settled for $850,000 without receiving an apology from Clinton.
Other Types of Civil Rights Violations
- False Arrest: If a police officer does not have prior authorization from a judge or sufficient and logical evidence, any arrest will be illegal.
- Unlawful Detention: Law enforcement restricts a person’s movement without legal justification.
- Discrimination: Detaining or targeting someone under the pretext of discrimination; violates a citizen’s civil rights.
- Malicious Prosecution: Police charges made without foundation, intended to harm and ruin an individual’s reputation.
- Prison Abuse: Sexual abuse, harassment, or coercion to perform tasks for the benefit of officers, abuse of authority, police brutality, excessive use of force, and discrimination based on their status as prisoners.
- Witness Tampering or Manipulation of Evidence: These situations often arise due to improper police behavior and may occur when members of the state forces try to cover up their mistakes by coercing witnesses or tampering with evidence.
- Police Dog Attacks: The officer responsible for the police dog causes serious personal injury to the victim.
- Failure to Intervene: When a police officer witnesses a crime and does not intervene.
How to File a Police Misconduct Claim?
If you have been the victim of misconduct by the police, it’s important to report it to the OIA to protect your civil rights. However, it’s also crucial to file a civil rights complaint for police misconduct to hold the responsible parties accountable.
Here’s what to do before filing a claim:
Seek Medical Treatment
Obtaining an injury report is crucial to support your case, regardless of whether you were subjected to physical abuse or verbal harassment.
Police officers are responsible for providing adequate medical attention to people in custody, and failing to do so is a form of unlawful detention.
If you sustained injuries due to police misconduct, seeking medical attention to recover and obtain vital evidence for your case is essential. A doctor can provide written documentation of your injuries, serving as proof in court.
Gather Evidence You Might Need
Gathering evidence can range from documents to medical reports, audio, videos, testimonials, or photographs. Ideally, you should also collect the following:
- Name and badge number of the police officer who hurt you
- Witness statements
- Date, time, and location of the incident
Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a police misconduct lawyer can relieve you of the burden of the legal process and enable you to focus on your physical and emotional recovery. The lawyer will carefully review your case and formulate a legal strategy to achieve your goals.
File an Internal Complaint With the Police Department
You can file a complaint in person at the Internal Affairs group in any police facility or at the Office of the Inspector General. Alternatively, you can also file your complaint online through their website.
Submit a Claim Within the Statutory Period
The legal process may involve the defense attempting to misuse its authority to avoid liability. Once you submit a notice of the claim, you must file a lawsuit within six months, especially for state claims like false arrest and imprisonment.
Types of Civil Rights and Police Misconduct Claims
Police brutality refers to the extent of cruelty that police officers may inflict on individuals, which goes against constitutional laws. In California and other states, there are several common types of police misconduct claims, including:
False arrest is when a person is held or detained by a police officer without any legal justification or consent. To file a false arrest claim, the plaintiff must establish three elements:
- The officer intended to detain the person.
- The plaintiff was aware of the arrest.
- There was no consent or reasonable justification.
If you are a victim of false arrest, you can file a civil lawsuit to seek damages for the harm caused. The plaintiff can seek special and general damages, including financial compensation for medical bills, property damages, and physical pain and suffering.
Malicious prosecution is a legal claim that can be brought against a person who files a civil or criminal lawsuit without reasonable grounds or probable cause. This claim can be filed by the person who was sued against the responsible party who initiated the illegitimate lawsuit.
The plaintiff must prove the following before filing a malicious prosecution claim:
- The defendant’s false case caused damages to the plaintiff.
- The defendant continued a legal proceeding.
- There was a purpose other than malice.
Use of Excessive Force
When an arrest occurs, police officers may use unnecessary force in a discriminatory and violent manner. To defend against this type of lawsuit, the officer must demonstrate that their actions were legally justified.
The plaintiff can file a Section 1983 claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, alleging that the defendant or the police officer in question violated their constitutional rights during the arrest.
How Do I Sue the Police for Violating Civil Rights?
You have two options to seek legal action against officials who violated your civil rights: filing a 1983 claim for police officers or a Bivens claim for federal officials.
A 1983 claim is filed against local or state officials and private individuals acting under the color of law with the authority or power given by the government.
On the other hand, a Bivens claim applies to individuals who federal officials constitutionally violated.
This type of claim can be filed in a district court against officers who work in agencies not protected from lawsuits, such as prison officials, members of Congress, and narcotics officers.
Examples of civil rights violations that fall under the Bivens claim include:
- Unreasonable search with no probable cause
- Firing someone from a U.S. agency withholding them of free speech
- Depriving people or prisoners of medical care and due process
Adamson Ahdoot Fights for the Justice You Deserve
Have you ever been in a situation where law enforcement officers, state institutions, or individuals violated your civil rights through misconduct?
Let our experienced lawyers at Adamson Ahdoot help you. Call us today at (800) 310-1606 to learn more about how to file a personal injury claim.
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