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It is common to want to sue the police after unpleasant contact or friction, especially when the conflict resulted in an arrest that seemed unwarranted, unfair, or downright abusive. Suing the police is complicated, though, even when you have been a victim of some kind of police misconduct and are absolutely innocent with regard to your arrest. This overview of the downfalls you may encounter when you sue the police will help you understand and protect your rights.
Suing the police for abuse or other violations can be an arduous task not only because of the time and expense involved but also due to certain legal protections that apply to police. However, it is possible to successfully sue the police by becoming aware of the laws allowances and limitations, carefully building a solid case, and staying the course.
Legal Protections for Both Citizens and Police
How to Sue the Police for Misconduct
What You Should Do to Sue the Police
What Is Police Abuse
Police abuse involves any type of misconduct or misrepresentation of power. Also called abuse of power, this encompasses the many ways that officers can take advantage of their powerful position in our society. Some examples of police abuse involve officers who treat citizens with unwarranted brutality, engage in corrupt acts that put innocent citizens lives at stake, or shoot people in response to little or no provocation.
Why You Should Or Should Not Sue
At the beginning of this article was the statement that you may need to consider a very important question in your desire to sue the police department: For What? This is where an experienced lawyer must step in to assess the causes of actions that will form the basis of your lawsuit.
Some peoples right to privacy has been violated due to an illegal search and seizure. Others have been harmed by excessive or unnecessary police force. And in some instances, people have lost their lives due to lethal force. These are issues that carry serious Constitutional violations and Civil Rights. When discussing these kinds of cases, even then the facts must be evaluated in order to make sure the actions of the police department were justified.
However, there is no shortage of cases where a simple inconvenience was suffered due to an investigation, or a brief detention/encounter on the street, or a simple traffic ticket was issued where the driver felt they didnt deserve itwhere a lawsuit would bring nothing but grief on the part of everyone involved. Its these difficult types of individuals who will find conflict where most would simply move on. Suing police departments is no small deal. Many jobs and careers can be on the line and a frivolous lawsuit helps no one. Its also these kinds of instances where the lawyer involved must choose to take on a case and decide to either politely and professionally decline the case or further evaluate the claim.
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S To Take When Suing A Traffic Police Officer
The first step when seeking to take legal action against a traffic police officer is to hire a highly experienced lawyer. Many lawsuits against public officials fail because the government has resources to hire the best defense lawyers. Therefore, go for a highly experienced attorney who has dealt with cases against public officials or high profile individuals.
Secondly, preserve as much evidence as you can. You should expect the traffic policeman to fabricate lies against you therefore, make sure you build your case on solid evidence.
The next thing you ought to do before you take your case to court is to file complaints with the police department, anti-corruption commission, or IPOA, depending on your claims. If no action is taken against the traffic policeman, these complaints will act as strong evidence.
Finally, your lawyer will file a legal claim in court. The court will set a date to hear your case and if you fail to settle, the case will go to trial. After the trial, the court will rule on whether your claim was valid, what compensation you should get, and how to punish the traffic policeman.
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Can Police Misconduct Lead To Criminal Prosecution
Police agency misconduct can be so egregious that it leads to criminal prosecution. The officer can be charged with a crime.18
Criminal charges against police for misconduct are rare. They often only come after truly outrageous conduct, such as severe police brutality, sexual assault, police shootings, or planting evidence. They tend to only be filed after the victim or his or her family file a lawsuit and begin to uncover damning evidence.
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Who Can File A Police Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Although police officers can face criminal penalties for unlawfully killing someone, they are rarely charged or prosecuted. However, families or victims are often successful in a civil wrongful death lawsuit against officers and departments.
When someone has died from a police assault or shooting, their surviving family members can file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. These cases demand compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent before death and for the loss of companionship by the family members. There is no limit to these amounts.
Financial losses, like lost income and funeral expenses, can also be awarded to the family. If the decedent supported a family, those damages are recoverable in the suit.
How Do I Sue The Cops
Notice of Claim
Once you have been victimized by the police, you must act quickly in order to preserve your rights. For New York State cases against the New York City Police Department, you will be required to act fast and file what is called a Notice of Claim with the New York City Comptrollers Office within ninety days of the occurrence. For Federal claims, however, you have a longer period in which you can file your case 3 years. If your attorney does not meet this deadline, you will not be able to pursue your case and your right to seek monetary or other compensation for your injuries will be lost.
Summons and Complaint
The next step after filing a Notice of Claim is for your attorney to submit a document called a Summons and Complaint to the court. This document must be sent to the opposing parties of the case: the Defendants who have violated your rights. The Summons requires the Defendants to respond to your allegations, and the Complaint lays out your allegations, cites the specific laws the police have violated, and requires them to file an Answer to your Complaint within either twenty or thirty days.
Discovery Swapping Information
It is critical that you have an attorney at your side throughout the discovery process to prepare and review documents, call and question witnesses, and construct your lawsuit during this important stage of the legal process. Only an experienced civil rights lawyer can best build your case as it moves towards settlement or trial.
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Unjustified Use Of Stun Guns
Stun guns are dangerous weapons and should only be used in urgent circumstances. A police officer should only use a stun gun to stop a confrontation. They are designed to incapacitate an attacker at a distance. They are preferred over the use of a firearm, but still pose a risk of serious injury or death.
A recent Reuters investigation identified 1,081 deaths involving the use of stun guns. In many of those instances, the use of a stun gun was not warranted under the circumstance. In several hundred instances, the family of the victim sued the government for the stun gun death and received a settlement payout.
Can I Sue The Police Department For Violating My Rights
Any person interacting with the police is protected against violations of their civil rights. They have the right not to be harassed, discriminated against, or assaulted. They are protected from the use of excessive force and unreasonable search or seizure.
When filing a lawsuit against an individual police officer, the plaintiff typically includes the police department as a defendant in the lawsuit as well. It is necessary to prove that the conduct that is the basis for the lawsuit against the department is part of a pattern of harassment, discrimination, or excessive force. Without evidence of a pattern of misconduct, a lawsuit against the department is unlikely to be successful.
Obstacles To Suing Police Officers
One of the primary challenges a citizen can face when suing the police is immunity. Many states have laws that offer immunity to public employees who perform certain duties, such as making an arrest. However, in some states, immunity does not apply when an officer utilizes excessive force or otherwise acts outside the scope of his responsibilities. Additionally, Section 1983 of Chapter 42 of the U.S. Code dictates that police officers have qualified immunity. This essentially protects police against lawsuits for civil rights violations as long as the officials behavior did not violate a clearly established right. The 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also says that states are immune from lawsuits by private citizens in federal court.
Medical Neglect In Jail Or Prison
Jail and prison inmates are legally entitled to adequate medical care, including:
- the dispensing of necessary medications
- dental care
- hospitalization when necessary
Inmates who are deprived of adequate medical care may be able to sue. Learn more in our article on medical neglect in Nevada jails and prisons.
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When Should I Talk To A Lawyer
You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible after any police misconduct takes place. This is important as the lawyer will take steps to preserve evidence. Evidence becomes harder to collect and may be destroyed as time passes.
You will need to talk to a civil lawyer if you wish to bring a claim for compensation. You may also need to see a criminal lawyer if you are being maliciously prosecuted.
Can You Sue The Police
If your case is deemed a civil issue, you will have the opportunity to make a lawsuit. Suing the police can be an uphill battle, which is why legal advice and representation is highly recommended to have a successful case. The police officer in question will likely have a lawyer working against your claim, therefore it is important you cooperate with your own lawyer to gather any evidence or witness statements that will support your case.
If successful, you will likely receive a sum of money for your suffering. The police officer will be sanctioned and may be suspended or permanently unable to work in the police force.
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The Qualified Immunity Defense
Although police misconduct does occur, its important to remember that police have highly dangerous jobs. As such, defense attorneys representing the law enforcement officer might use the Qualified Immunity Defense. This defense exists to prevent the fear of legal prosecution from affecting a police officers ability to enforce the law.
As such, unless the law enforcement officer clearly violated a federal statute, beyond a reasonable doubt, then there might not be a civil rights case.
Are There Alternatives To Suing The Police
If you have a serious complaint you should speak with a lawyer before considering these alternatives. Pursuing these alternatives may impact on any claim you chose to make in the future.
You can approach the Victoria Police directly and request an ‘ex-gratia’ payment. These are only made in special circumstances. Usually, your lawyer will make this application on your behalf and represent you in the negotiations.
You may also choose to make a complaint.
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Personal Injury Damages Against Police
If you were injured by a police officers misconduct, you might be able to claim damages from the department. These damages could include:
- Medical expenses for doctor or hospital visits, assistive devices, diagnostics, therapies, or other treatments related to the injury
- Recovered costs for lost wages if you missed time from work
- Punitive damages if the behavior was malicious or with reckless disregard for your well-being
Benefits Of A Simplified Process Of Suing The Police In The Provincial Court
Generally, one benefit of civil actions against the police is that they allow for greater accountability. For example, in Doe v Metropolitan Commissioners of Police, O.J. No. 268139 , O.R. 487, the court held the police liable to the plaintiff for negligent investigation. In Kirby v. British Columbia , 41 BCLR 45, 1997 CanLII 2611 .the court held that the police breached a reasonable duty of care for safety during an arrest. In 2017, the Small Claims Court of Ontario awarded $ 25,000 compensation to a man beaten up by the police during an arrest .
There are numerous benefits of bringing a civil action in the provincial court in Alberta. It is simpler, quicker and less expensive, because it is not a mandatory requirement that a lawyer should represent a plaintiff . Section 9.6 constitutes a problem of access to justice because it takes away from would-be plaintiffs the simplified process of holding police officers accountable for civil wrongs in the provincial court.
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How Much Are Police Misconduct Settlements
Settlements in a police abuse lawsuit include payment for the physical harm, psychological harm, and economic losses suffered by the victim and family.
Economic losses include medical expenses, lost income, and other financial losses resulting from the incident. There is generally no limit to the amount of a settlement. Every case is different depending on the facts, circumstances, and injuries.
In cases involving wrongful death, a settlement can be sought for the victims pain and suffering from the time of the incident until death. They also claim compensation for the loss of companionship suffered by the family members.
Since 2015, the City of Detroit has paid out more than $25 million in police misconduct claims. This includes a $925,000 settlement for a man shot in the back and two claims totaling $4.5 million for men sent to prison for crimes they did not commit.
Most recently, the City of Detroit reached an $8.25 million settlement with the family of a young girl shot during a police raid. The police department denied any wrongdoing for the death. Facts and information obtained in a lawsuit showed it was an unjustified shooting.
Can I Sue The Police For Excessive Force
Yes, but you face an uphill battle. You can sue the police officers themselves who used excessive force. In some situations, you can sue the law enforcement officers’ supervisor for their subordinate’s conduct. And you also may be able to bring a claim against the municipality itself if it has a policy or custom that caused the use of excessive force. But civil rights cases involving police brutality or other police misconduct can be very complicated and hard to win.
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Broad Public Support For Several Policing Reform Proposals
There is majority support among the public and in both parties for five policy proposals about policing included in the survey. However, there are still sizable partisan differences in these views.
Eight-in-ten or more Democrats either strongly or somewhat favor each of the five proposals, while there is more variation among Republicans. Even on policies where there is overwhelming bipartisan support such as requiring police to be trained in nonviolent alternatives to deadly force, favored by nine-in-ten or more in both parties Democrats are more likely than Republicans to strongly support such a policy .
An overwhelming majority of Democrats say they favor giving civilian oversight boards power to investigate and discipline officers accused of misconduct, with 62% saying they strongly favor this. A narrower majority of Republicans say they either strongly or somewhat favor oversight boards . There is a similar pattern of opinion about making it a crime for police to use chokeholds or strangleholds .
Overwhelming majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor creating a federal government database to track officers accused of misconduct. However, while about three-quarters of Democrats strongly favor this proposal, fewer than half of Republicans say the same .
Overwhelming majorities across racial and ethnic groups say they favor requiring police to be trained in nonviolent alternatives to deadly force, with at least seven-in-ten saying they strongly favor this.
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