Police officers have a great deal of power and exist to protect people. However, there are incidents in which officers have gone too far to enforce the law. Many times, people’s civil rights have been violated because of police officers overstepping their bounds. It happens daily throughout the United States, including in the state of Michigan, and victims have a right to bring a civil lawsuit to get compensation for any injuries they have suffered.
What Is Police Misconduct?
Victims of police misconduct rely on section 1983, a statute that governs primary civil rights, to bring civil suits against police. Originally passed in 1871 as part of the Civil Rights Act, 1983 is in place to protect people, ensuring that they have civil rights and that it is against the law if those civil rights are deprived in any way. Victims bring claims against police officers for a variety of types of misconduct. The following are the most common:
- False Arrest: This is the most widely mentioned complaint against police. People often argue their fourth amendment right was violated due to unreasonable seizure. If a police officer had probable cause to search a person or arrest him without a warrant, the individual’s rights are not violated. A victim must show in court that the arrest was unjust because the officer had insufficient cause to believe the victim had committed a crime.
- Malicious Prosecution: If a victim of police brutality claims his fourteenth amendment rights were violated, it means that a police officer deprived the victim of his or her right to liberty. A victim must prove that the officer commenced a criminal proceeding that ended in the victim’s favor, that there was no probable cause, and that the proceeding was brought about with malice toward the individual.
- Excessive Force: This occurs when a person is physically restrained or handled excessively and in a manner that can cause injury or even death. Whether a police officer’s use of excessive force is legal depends on the circumstances. However, even if the officer’s intentions were good but he used excessive force, it can result in a successful legal argument for the victim.
- Failure to Intervene: Police officers have a duty to protect people from violations by other officers. This means if one officer witnesses another violating someone’s constitutional rights, the former can be held liable to the victim in addition to the latter.
Qualified Immunity Defense
Attorneys for police officers often raise a defense of qualified immunity. This defense exists to protect an officer in situations where force is necessary and entirely legal. It is an effective defense only when a police officer did not violate a person’s rights.
A person bringing a claim against an officer must prove that the actions of that officer were unreasonable, violated constitutional rights, and caused injury or damages. Victims must be proactive when filing a claim against a police officer by taking pictures of pertinent evidence, documenting all events, and gathering contact information of any witnesses.
For the best chance of having a successful police misconduct case, acquire a civil rights attorney with Michigan Legal Center. We can analyze the facts of the case and suggest the most appropriate course of legal action. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.