Arrest situations, of course, are already emotion-packed. However, when a police officer engages in excessive use of force, it often makes a bad situation unbearable. Trauma can and often does occur.
Has a policeman bullied you, struck you or thrown you on the ground unnecessarily, caused you to bleed, or roughed you up in the squad car? Has a policeman or policewoman used a taser gun on you when it was not necessary? Has a police officer used excessive force during a search and seizure of you or your property? All of these actions – and more – are considered abuses of police power.
Generally, police officers in St. Paul, and across the United States, are given what’s called “qualified immunity.” This means that they have protection from being sued in some circumstances, so that the fear of being sued does not affect their ability to perform their job. So, in upholding the law, officers are allowed to use the degree of force that’s necessary to do their jobs effectively and safely. If a suspect becomes aggressive, they can become aggressive. But, if the suspect is cooperating, an officer cannot harass or otherwise intimidate a citizen just because they want to at the moment.
It’s becoming more common for officers to cross the line and become excessively forceful. “Because I said so” is never a valid excuse for excessive use of force by any officer, or a false or unwarranted arrest. The law states that whether a police officer intended to use excessive force is not what counts; if he/she used too much force in a situation that was not severe, he/she can be held liable.
Each judge has considerable freedom within the courtroom to rule if a police officer has indeed acted illegally. The degree of force must “fit the crime.” Anyone who’s been violated by an officer deserves a good attorney, one who will prove to the judge that the officer was not in control of the situation, and acted inappropriately, if not dangerously. There are both federal and state laws protecting citizens against a police officer’s use of excessive force. Usually, excessive force claims are brought under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, commonly known as “Section 1983.” This statute makes it “illegal for anyone acting under the authority of the law, such as a police officer, to deprive another person of his or her civil rights” under the U.S. Constitution.
Securing evidence in an excessive force case is paramount. If you’ve been violated, by making sure you abide by the following guidelines, you’ll put yourself in the best possible position as you seek an attorney to represent you:
1. Document What Happened: It’s often hard to remember details during a traumatic event, so it’s very important to write out a detailed account of what occurred as soon after the incident as possible. Stick to the facts; as much as possible, keep your emotions out of what you write. This account will be helpful to your attorney in developing a clear statement for court.
2. Take and Save Photographs: If you have physical injuries caused by the police, take pictures from multiple angles to document them. Save them on multiple devices. In addition, make sure you get the medical attention you need. Having medical records is also key in making your case. In addition, if you have clothing that was torn or other items damaged items by the police during the encounter, keep them in a safe place, under lock and key, if possible.
3. Gather Witnesses: If there were other people there during the event who witnessed the police’s behavior, get their names and numbers. Later on, your attorney can help you get signed statements from these witnesses.
In excessive force cases, plantiffs usually have their attorney help file a complaint with the police department in question, and a police misconduct report with the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney General’s office. Though, in some cases, this might not be to a plantiff’s advantage.
Getting the advice of an experienced lawyer is your best move.
Call us today for a free consultation at 651.366.6909.