Understanding Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Violations

Everyone in the United States has civil rights: citizens, immigrants, even undocumented immigrants or foreign travelers. We all have the right to be free from excessive force by law enforcement, guaranteed to us by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Civil rights are those derived from the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of a state, or a civil rights statute. When law enforcement officers abuse their power or exceed the limits of their authority to deprive a person of his or her civil rights, that is police misconduct.

Unlawful detention, false arrest, excessive use of force, and racial profiling are all forms of police misconduct.

Unlawful detention occurs when police stop an individual (e.g., a traffic stop, stop-and-frisk) without reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. This can lead to a false arrest if the individual is then taken into custody or the detention is excessively prolonged. Unlawful detention and false arrest violate the Fourth Amendment.

The use of excessive force during an arrest is also a form of police misconduct and civil rights violation. Excessive force includes the excessive and unlawful use of deadly force. Under federal law and California law, police officers are prohibited from using deadly force – for example, shooting a person – unless the person is an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or others. The use of unlawful deadly force violates an individual’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

There are several remedies available to you if you have suffered from police misconduct and other civil rights violations.

You may file a complaint with the offending officer’s police department or if you are charged with a crime, have your criminal defense lawyer ask the court to keep out any evidence found as a result of police misconduct. If the excessive force has caused you serious injury or extensive economic harm, or the death of a loved one, you may wish to consult with an attorney who handles civil rights police misconduct cases.

Since each state’s laws may differ, you should hire an attorney with expertise in the jurisdiction where the misconduct occurred.

If you have been severely injured, or a loved one has been killed, by excessive force from law enforcement, the lawyers at Haddad & Sherwin LLP may be able to help.