We have all seen in the news that there have been far too many cases of civilians being injured and sometimes even killed due to excessive force applied by police officers. There are, of course, situations in which police officers must use force and even deadly force in maintaining the peace, but it is illegal for police officers to engage in excessive force, often referred to as police brutality, even where the victim may have engaged in a crime.
Victims of police brutality can often suffer for years after the use of excessive force, facing ongoing medical bills, pain and suffering, and the inability to earn their previous level of income. But victims do have the right to fight back when they have suffered the effects of excessive force by police officers by bringing a Section 1983 claim to hold police officers and their employers liable for injuries caused by the violation of their constitutional rights.
Bringing a 1983 Claim for Excessive Force
Individuals have the right to recover damages against police officers (and their employers) under what is usually referred to as a “Section 1983 claim” or simply a “1983 claim.” This refers to a federal statute which gives individuals the right to recover damages when a government actor such as a police officer violates their constitutional rights. These rights include the right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizure, the right to due process, and the right to be free from false arrest or malicious prosecution, among other rights.
When an officer commits an illegal act of violence against an individual, that individual should bring a 1983 claim for use of excessive force. If successful, the individual can recover compensatory damages – including medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost income – as well as punitive damages in some cases.
What is Excessive Force Under the Law?
Because police officers do have the right to use force, proving that the police officer used excessive force in a given situation can be challenging, and so it is important that a victim of excessive force contact an experienced civil rights attorney as soon as possible after the event occurs so that the attorney can begin collecting evidence to prove the case and take steps to prevent the offending parties from distorting or withholding evidence.
When a judge and/or jury considers whether a police officer used excessive force in a given situation, they will look at a number of factors, which can include:
- The nature of the alleged crime or other circumstances the officer was responding to
- Whether the plaintiff presented a threat to the officer
- Whether the plaintiff was resisting or evading arrest
- The amount of time the officer had to respond
- The type and amount of force used
- The availability of alternative methods to subdue the plaintiff
- The risk to third parties presented by the plaintiff
- Whether a warning was given and/or could have been given
- Whether domestic violence was involved
- Whether the plaintiff was exhibiting signs of emotional disturbance
- Whether the officer had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff
An experienced civil rights attorney will investigate all the above issues and work with you to present your best case for recovery in a 1983 excessive force claim, if the facts support such a claim. It is important to act quickly in contacting an attorney, not simply because doing so can be critical to collecting evidence, but also because the statute of limitations for bringing such claims can be very limited.
Get Help From a Southern California Attorney In Your Civil Rights Matter
If you have been the victim of excessive force by a police officer, contact an attorney as soon as possible to determine your rights and begin the process of obtaining your financial recovery. The attorneys at The Kaufman Law Firm have consistently won six- and seven-figure verdicts and settlements on behalf of plaintiffs across Southern California. They will work with you from the moment you call to investigate your excessive force matter and build your best possible case for recovery. Contact The Kaufman Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.