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Five Things You Should Know About Suing The Police

Almost every day the news has another story about clashes between police officers and civilians -- often with allegations of police misconduct, illegal activity, and brutality. More people than ever are concerned about their civil rights - especially when it seems like people are being arrested or injured by the police for small things like filming police during an arrest.  If you've been a victim of police misconduct, here are five things that you need to know:

  1. The Civil Rights Act protects private citizens against police brutality. That includes things like false arrest and excessive force. A false arrest occurs when you're arrested without any legal cause - like people who have been arrested for filming the police in public (which is a perfectly legal action). Excessive force occurs when the police act with unnecessary violence under the given circumstances. For example, shooting a suspect that's unarmed, or tasering someone who has already surrendered and is laying on the ground could be considered excessive force.

  2. The police, as government employees, can claim immunity for the things that they do during their official duties -- unless you can prove that their conduct was willfully unreasonable. That doesn't necessarily mean that you don't have a case, however. It just means that you have to go through a few extra steps if you want to sue the police.

  3. Before you sue the police, you need to give the police notice of your claim. Every jurisdiction has its own form for this and its own rules on how long you have to file, so consult with an attorney in your area to make sure that you're within the right time limit. You may eventually have to move forward in court, but you might also receive a settlement offer from the police fairly quickly.

  4. You have the legal right to request dashcam videos and any video taken by the police on the scene. Dashcam video has been able to exonerate people unjustly accused of crimes and turn the tables on abusive officers. Many people don't realize that dashcam videos are actually public evidence and that they have a right to request it as part of their case.

  5. A civil lawsuit against the police may also turn into a criminal lawsuit. Always keep in mind that your civil claim may also result in criminal charges against the police involved, depending on the severity of the allegation. If you file a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ), or the DOJ decides to investigate on its own, the civil and criminal cases may overlap.

If you or someone that you love has been victimized by the police, contact an attorney like those at Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates LLC regarding a potential civil rights claim or personal injury case as soon as possible.