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Violations of Constitutional Rights resulting from Police Misconduct

This content about police misconduct 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.

When a person is a victim of police misconduct or violence, he or she has the option to pursue a lawsuit against the officer who engaged in the misconduct on the basis of a violation of constitutional rights. In these cases, the officer usually violates the right to liberty and due process of the Fourteenth Amendment. Also, it is common to see a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure.

Victims of police misconduct often shy away from filing a lawsuit against police officers due to their perceived immunity. And while law enforcement actors do have a certain level of immunity, it does not excuse them from violating constitutional rights. This means that the transgressing officer can be held liable in court.

Examples of police misconduct and violations

1. Excessive force: 

The use of excessive force refers to a situation where a law enforcement agent uses an unreasonable amount of force in the course of duty. Excessive force constitutes an unreasonable seizure, which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In an excessive force claim, factors like a police officer’s state of mind or intent are not taken into account. Instead, what must be determined is if the use of force was reasonable or unreasonable given the circumstances.

In 2019, California passed legislation that changed the use of deadly force standards for police officers. Before this law was passed, officers could use deadly force when it was deemed “reasonable”, i.e., another reasonable officer would have acted in the same manner. However, this new law requires that deadly force be used only if it’s necessary. It also prohibits officers from using their firearm on fleeing suspects that are not an imminent threat.

2. False arrest or imprisonment: 

A false arrest occurs when an individual is taken into custody without probable cause to do so. It is different from false imprisonment, which is when a person is confined without their consent. However, both of these actions violate the right against unreasonable search or seizure of the Fourth Amendment.

3. Malicious prosecution: 

This form of police misconduct involves the intentional and wrongful initiation of criminal proceedings against the victim. These actions constitute a violation of Fourteenth Amendment rights, which prohibit the State from depriving a person of their liberty without due process.

To prove a claim of malicious prosecution, the victim must show that the lawsuit ended in their favor (the victim was not convicted) and that the defendant acted with a purpose other than winning the case, such as to harm or harass the victim.

California police misconduct cases

If you have been subjected to any of the forms of police misconduct mentioned above in California, you may file a civil lawsuit against the offending officer or law enforcement agency. Make sure to contact a specialized lawyer as soon as possible to know where your case stands. Filing a civil lawsuit may allow you to recover damages and receive compensation for your suffering. Additionally, the court may order an injunction, preventing police misconduct from happening again.

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 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.