When a Michigan arrestee feels that they were unjustly arrested, abused, or otherwise mistreated by a law enforcement officer, the first question is usually whether he has a legal right to sue the officer and/or law enforcement department. The answer is often yes. However, suing the police for misconduct is not an easy road. Victims may encounter many pitfalls because of certain legalities that protect police officers. It’s important for victims to know their rights, understand the allowances made for police, and remember limitations. The most important step is to contact a Michigan police misconduct attorney to discuss victims’ rights.
Legal Protections for Citizens
State and federal laws protect citizens against abuse and civil rights violations from government officials, which includes law enforcement officers. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act prohibits any law body from violating a citizen’s civil rights. Both individual officers and local police departments responsible for employing officers who engage in misconduct may be sued for violating these rights.
Legal Protections for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement bodies and individuals are also granted legal protections. Qualified immunity is one such protection. It prevents police from being sued for reasonable actions taken in the line of duty. The key point here is “reasonable.” Qualified immunity covers negligence, but it does not protect officers who have willfully acted in an unreasonable manner.
The most common legal case brought by citizens against officers is for police misconduct. Misconduct most often involves false arrest, discrimination, harassment, or use of excessive force.
To bring forth a lawsuit, one must consider the following:
- The officer must have a history or pattern of discriminating or harassing behavior. Single episodes are rarely enough for a lawsuit.
- The Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable seizure, is the most common ground for claims of false arrest. Victims must be able to show that the officer did not have probable cause.
- An unreasonable use of force that causes severe harm or death is the most common grounds for claims of excessive force. The amount of force necessary for a given arrest is completely subjective since there isn’t a standard definition. This means that victims must prove that their situation didn’t warrant the amount of force used by the officer.
What Are Victims Entitled to Receive?
Victims who can prove officer or agency misconduct may be awarded monetary compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses for any injuries caused by police brutality
- Ongoing costs of therapy
- Psychological and psychiatric care
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages may be awarded in egregious cases of negligence or recklessness
What Steps Should Be Taken to Sue Law Enforcement?
Anyone who believes he was negatively impacted by police misconduct should follow these four steps for the best possible outcome of a potential lawsuit:
- Preserve the evidence. Take pictures of all injuries. Write down any pertinent information. Place any damaged objects and clothing in a zip lock bag to preserve it. Take the names, numbers, and addresses of all witnesses.
- Immediately consult a Michigan civil rights attorney who focuses on police misconduct cases. At Michigan Legal Center, initial consultations are free. Ensure that the attorney works on a contingency fee, which means that the client doesn’t pay up front and doesn’t pay at all if the lawsuit is unsuccessful.
- If criminal charges were filed, such as resisting arrest, ensure that the civil rights attorney is also highly experienced in criminal law.
- Under the guidance of an attorney, document the event by lodging complaints with the officer’s department, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and the Attorney General’s office.
Call 800-961-8477 or contact Michigan Legal Center online for a free case evaluation. You will not be obligated to use our firm, but we will be able to help you determine whether you have a sound lawsuit. Our goal is to win the maximum compensation you deserve for what you have suffered at the hands of public officials in Michigan.