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Police Excessive Force in California

This content about excessive use of force was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

Excessive use of force is a type of police misconduct that violates the victim’s rights and can lead to legal action against the police officer and its employers. The laws that govern cases of excessive force in California have changed to give the victims better ways to defend themselves and prove their case in court.

To decide if an officer exceeded the necessary force to make an arrest, the jury considers what a reasonable person would have done under those circumstances if they had the officer’s knowledge.

The California Public Records Act

Since September 2019, the public has a legal right to access records of police misconduct and excessive force under the California Public Records Act, thanks to S.B. 1421.

The California Public Records Act is written to ensure government transparency, and attorneys for the Reporters Committee argue that S.B. 1421 should be interpreted to serve that purpose and that any record, regardless of origin, must be disclosed so long as the agency in question maintains it, as reported by Reporter’s Committee

Excessive Use of Force in California

The use of excessive force by a police officer while performing an arrest is unlawful, often unreasonable, and violates’s the victim’s rights stated in the Fourth Amendment.

Police officers are only allowed to necessary and reasonable use force to defend themselves or make an arrest. In order to justify the use of excessive force, police officers must take the following into account:

  • Is the crime a serious one?
  • Does the victim pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officer and others?
  • Is the victim resisting arrest or trying to escape?

When making an arrest, officers generally are allowed to use some force if the suspect is resisting (the amount of force permitted depends on the circumstances); deadly force is only permitted when the officer is facing an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to himself or someone else.

When going after a fleeing suspect, the amount of force a police officer can use will depend on whether the person has committed a felony or a simple misdemeanor, among other factors.

Police Excessive Force in California and the Law

When dealing with cases of excessive use of force by police officers, courts in California also analyze the decisions of the officer leading up to the use of force.

Using deadly force on someone can get the police officer in question charged with a crime. The laws that allowed deadly use of force by police officers under reasonable circumstances were recently changed so it can only be used when absolutely necessary. The courts will consider the actions from both the victim and the police leading to the fatal event.

Using deadly force on a suspect it violates the victim’s right to a due process, depriving them of life without going through the due process of law.

A civil rights lawyer is the best person to deal with cases of people who were victims of police excessive use of force, as it can help them find if they have a viable lawsuit against the officer who violated their rights, or even against the municipality that employs them.

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content about excessive force was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.