Police misconduct is commonly thought of as the use of excessive force, or tampering with a crime scene, yet there are many more forms of police misconduct. When determining if you have been the victim of police misconduct, it is only necessary to determine if your constitutional rights were violated in the process of police work or a police investigation.
There are a number of circumstances in which action can be taken against the police:
- Unlawful Arrest: When making an arrest, a police officer must have probable cause for suspecting that a crime is either being committed, or is about to be committed. There are three questions to consider when determining if an unlawful arrest has taken place
- Did the police officer suspect that the person arrested was guilty of an arrestable offense?
- If so, did the police officer have a reasonable ground for such suspicion?
- Did the police officer abuse his/her discretion in carrying out the arrest?
- False Imprisonment: Police must justify any detention or arrest. Any bodily restraint not authorized by the law amounts to false imprisonment. This can occur on the street, in a police vehicle, at the police station, or even in one’s home. For false imprisonment to occur, the detention must result in the total restraint of the person.
- Assault and Battery: The police can use reasonable force to carry out their duties. However, if they use excessive force, they may be liable for assault and battery. Excessive force is determined by looking at the totality of factors. These factors include:
- Severity of the crime
- Suspect resistance
- Intent of the officers
- Officer safety
- Malicious Prosecution: In order to establish that a malicious prosecution has occurred, you have to prove that the district attorney had no probable cause to prosecute you and they had a "wrongful motive" in doing so. In order to prove a case, you must fulfill the following elements:
- The police arrested you without reasonable and probable cause
- The prosecution caused you damage
- The prosecutor acted maliciously
Damages in a police misconduct lawsuit will vary depending on the severity of the misconduct and the nature of the injuries one sustains from such misconduct. The following are categories of damages typically associated with a police misconduct lawsuit:
- Compensatory Damages: You will be compensated for such things as damaged property, loss of earnings, and potential future loss of financial earnings
- Aggravated Damages: Aggravated damages can be awarded if the police act in a high handed or unpleasant way
- Exemplary Damages: These are awarded where police conduct has amounted to an oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional action and are intended to act as a deterrent to future wrongdoing
If you have been the victim of police misconduct, and want to file a lawsuit, or just want to know if you have a lawsuit against the police department, you may find the advice of a personal injury attorney to be helpful in this complicated area of law.