Recently, the increasing number of reported police brutality cases has drawn national attention to law enforcement procedures and police misconduct. While most police officers valiantly protect the public, some commit egregious violations against civilians.
These individuals can and should be held accountable for their actions, so if you are a victim of police misconduct, you should speak with an experienced civil rights attorney who can explain your legal options.
Some of the most common claims of police misconduct involve allegations of excessive force, malicious prosecution, and false arrest. Of these three, the use of excessive force is especially concerning as it can lead to serious injuries and in some tragic cases, even death. For instance, some of the most commonly reported examples of excessive force include:
Police officers have immunity from suit as long as they act within the scope of their authority. When they step outside the bounds of this authority, however, they can be held accountable for their actions. For example, as part of their discretionary authority, police officers are permitted by law to use the degree of force that is necessary to subdue a person who is under arrest. When this reaches the level of excessive force, it constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. Unfortunately, defining what amount of force qualifies as excessive can be difficult because it varies depending on each situation.
For this reason, courts use a balancing test, in which they ask whether an objectively reasonable officer would have believed it necessary to use the same level of force in a similar situation. Although courts do not assess an officer’s motivations during this analysis, they do look at a number of other factors, including:
If, after applying these factors to the specific case, a court determines that a situation did not warrant the use of the amount of force used by the officer, then the officer loses their immunity and can be sued.
In particularly severe cases, other police officers who witnessed another officer use excessive force can be charged with a failure to intervene if the injured party can demonstrate that:
It is generally understood that law enforcement officers have a preexisting duty to prevent the use of excessive force by other officers.
Police misconduct cases are particularly troubling because the purpose of law enforcement is to ensure the safety of civilians. Although establishing a police officer’s liability can be difficult, it is not impossible if the injured party has access to sufficient evidence, including video recordings, so if you are an Ohio resident and were a victim of police misconduct, please contact Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC to speak to an experienced civil rights attorney who can evaluate your case.
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