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Legal Action For Police Brutality

This content about police brutality 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.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, police brutality has been increasingly denounced and protested, and rightfully so. No citizen should be subjected to a violation of their constitutional rights when in police custody. However, the residents of California are no strangers to this harsh reality.

A person who is the victim of police brutality or excessive force can file a civil rights lawsuit in California. These lawsuits usually aim to recover money damages for the victim, but in some cases, they may also demand an injunction or result in criminal charges against the law enforcement officer.

Police brutality in action

Police officers are supposed to have the training and knowledge to use the least amount of force possible so as to not injure or kill a person. But all too often, factors such as racial profiling and other forms of discrimination can come into play, many times depriving the victim of their right to due process.

Police brutality and violence can take on many forms that violate a citizen’s civil rights, which include but are not limited to:

  • False arrest
  • Racial profiling
  • Intimidation
  • Excessive use of force
  • Assault and battery
  • Sexual abuse
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter

Your legal recourses

One possible recourse is what is known as a “1983 Claim”. Federal law allows citizens to file a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, which encompasses civil rights violations enacted under color of law. This type of lawsuit can result in monetary damages to compensate the victim, punitive damages, and/or an injunction. It is also important to note that it can be filed against an officer, police department, town, county, or municipality.

One of the cons of this type of lawsuit is that it requires overcoming something known as “qualified immunity,” which is a defense that may protect a police officer from paying monetary damages. This is just one reason why hiring an experienced lawyer is key.

Another type of lawsuit that can be filed in police brutality cases is a Bivens lawsuit. It is very similar to a 1983 claim, except that it is filed against federal actors, such as FBI or DEA agents, but they cannot be filed against entities. The defendants of a Bivens lawsuit may also claim qualified immunity.

If the police misconduct was particularly egregious, it can lead to criminal prosecution, where the officer is charged with a crime.

Legal advice is essential

Police brutality in California is not rare, and there is an increasing concern about the use of violence and deadly force by law enforcement officers prior, during, and after taking a citizen into custody. If you ever have an unfortunate encounter with a law enforcement officer that violates your civil rights, don’t hesitate to take action with the aid of a dedicated attorney. He or she will make sure to build a solid case on your behalf and walk side-by-side with you through the entire process.

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.