Suing the Police Lawyers
When Can I Sue the Police?
Generally speaking, most lawsuits against the police are for police misconduct and stem from a violation of 42 USCA § 1983. Police misconduct deals with actions by a police officer such as:
- Excessive force,
- Intentional false arrest, or
- Sexual abuse.
Most states require that you first go through appropriate administrative remedies before you can sue the police. These include:
- Reporting the incident to police internal affairs, and/or
- Reporting the incident to the Department of Justice or a municipality's Attorney General.
Once you have made an appropriate report, most states also have laws that require the agency you filed the report with to give you a written notice that tells you of your right to sue the police for the incident in question.
Who Can I Sue When I Sue the Police?
Most police misconduct suits involve three defendants:
- The police officer(s) involved,
- The municipality, and
- The police officer(s) supervisor.
The police officer(s) involved are usually the primary defendant in police misconduct lawsuits. Suing a municipality may be more difficult because of the Government Immunity Doctrine, but in some areas this has been abolished. Supervisors are not usually vicariously liable, and can only be sued if they were personally involved in the incident, or were a direct cause of the incident.
What Damages Can I Receive When I Sue the Police?
If you sue the police, you may be able to collect damages. Generally, those damages fall into three categories:
- Civil Rights Damages - These damages are directly tied to the violation of your Civil Rights by a police officer.
- Actual Damages - These damages cover physical and emotional injuries, expenses, and costs associated with the incident.
- Punitive Damages - These damages are meant to punish the police officer. Generally speaking, municipalities are exempt from punitive damages.
Are There Any Limitations on Suing the Police?
Some stats have "False Charge" laws. "False Charge" laws make it a misdemeanor if you knowingly file a false police misconduct allegation or lawsuit against a police officer, a municipality, or a supervisor. If you file a false charge, you can be punished with jail time, fines, and/or community service.
Do I Need an Attorney to Sue the Police?
If you are trying to sue the police, or think you have been the victim of police misconduct, it is highly recommended for you to contact an attorney. Only they will be able to explain the issue, guide you through the process, and help protect your rights.
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Last Modified: 11-23-2010 12:25 PM PST