Can A Police Officer or Department Be Sued For Using Excessive Force ? You Bet They Can.

Posted By Michael R. Varble || 31-Mar-2014

In today's blog post, I discuss one of the claims that can arise in a situation where the police use excessive force. Police can and are sued for using excessive force so, If you or someone you love has been the victim of a beating at the hands of a police officer while they were on duty, you need to call us right away.

Police, when attempting to make an arrest, have the right to use force that the officer believes is reasonably necessary to make the arrest or prevent someone from escaping. An officer or a department can only be held liable if the force is determined by a jury to be unnecessary or if the force used is determined by the jury to be excessive. If you believe you have been the victim of the use of excessive force by the police, have to show that the officer(s) who are to be named as defendants committed a battery - hit, kicked, punched, or otherwise beat a person - while effectuating an arrest or while you were in the custody of the police. You, as the plaintiff, also need to show that you were injured as a result of the acts of the officer(s) that was excessive. How, you may ask ? Well, your testimony, video surveillance possible, and medical evidence from a doctor.

Often times, the police will admit that the office did use force against you while the officer was trying to arrest you or while you were in custody, but they will also indicate that you were resisting arrest or attempting to escape. They will also claim that they only used such force as he or she considered necessary to arrest you or to prevent you from escaping. Well, this is where a jury comes into play.

A Court will instruct a jury that they need to take into consideration all of the circumstances existing at the time and place of the incident and, if they find that is was not reasonable for the police officer to believe that you were resisting or attempting to escape, then the jury should find that the officer was not justified in using the amount of force implemented. The jury then will be instructed to find that the officer committed a battery. If, however, the jury finds that the amount of force used was reasonable under the circumstances, they jury will be instructed to find that the amount of force used was justified. When making this decision, the jury is instructed to take into consideration all of the factors facing the officer at the time of the incident: (1) what the officer saw and heard; (2) whether the officer had assistance available; and (3) what information the officer had about you the plaintiff at the time of the incident. The jury will consider any number of things regarding the scene of the incident as well, was it day or night, did the incident take place in a high crime area or in the police station.

Yes, you can seek to hold both the arresting officer and the department for whom he or she works liable for the same incident. How ? Well, if the officer was acting in the course of employment and furthering the purpose of the department, the department can be held liable for the officer's actions even if they are intentional. In addition, words alone by a person being arrested or attempting to escape, without some overt act of hostility, do not justify the use of force.

If the situation is one where there is the use of deadly physical force, the officer may use it in self defense or in the defense of a third person. The officer is only justified if he or she has a reasonable belief that a felony had been committed or that the force was necessary. The kinds of felonies to which this justification applies involves the use or attempted use or threatened imminent use of deadly physical force as well as to kidnapping, arson, escape in the first degree, burglary in the first degree or any attempt to commit such a crime. The use of deadly force is also justified if the officer reasonably believes that the perpetrator is armed with a firearm or deadly weapon. A police officer should always inform an alleged perpetrator that he or she is an officer as this will have baring on the issue of whether the use of force would have been unnecessary.

So what does all of this mean to you if you are a potential plaintiff in a personal injury case ? Well, you will want to think about what was going on at the time you were arrested and assaulted by the police officer. You will want to try to remember all the details of what was going on at that time and we, as your attorneys, will ask you several questions about this sequence of events. We will also want to know where the incident took place and determine if there is video evidence available and if there were witnesses to the incident as well. In this day of the of the smart phone that takes photos and videos, witnesses many be more than just an eye witness; witnesses may have video evidence of what took place when you were arrested.

The other issues that I always talk to people about is that they need to have themselves treated medically as soon as possible after the incident. Don't worry about litigation. Worry about getting better and let your attorney worry about the litigation. That's our job. Follow your doctor's directions, take your medication as prescribed and participate in physical therapy and chiropractic treatment if it has been recommended for you. Do not go against your doctor's advice.

Please stay off of Facebook and Twitter about these issues too. Police and defense attorneys are plugged into social media just like the rest of the world and defense attorneys always check out social media to find out if the plaintiff who is claiming to be disabled from working is out partying like a rock star and dancing on a bar on Friday night. Your pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media site are available to anyone and everyone. Don't claim you are severely injured and then post pictures of yourself skiing, riding a jet ski or dunking over your buddy at the park. It will come back to haunt you in the end.

With all of this in mind, I hope none of you out there in Internet land need to use our services because they have been injured by a police officer through the use of excessive force. Unfortunately, these incidents happen and they will continue to happen from time to time. If you find yourself in this position, give us a call at 1.888.900.6204 and schedule a free consultation. Put us to work and we will fight for you.

Categories: Personal Injury

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