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Can You Sue the Police Department in Pennsylvania?


12/4/2019

The police are supposed to “protect and serve,” but, unfortunately, there are some officers who abuse their authority. For those who have been assaulted by the police or denied their rights, the feelings of frustration and powerlessness can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you have rights, and you can fight back.

If you’ve been harmed in any way by the police, you should talk to a civil rights attorney as soon as possible. Pennsylvania civil rights attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience you need to get the justice you deserve. If you need someone on your side who will fight for your rights, call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or send us an email to schedule a free consultation today.

Sovereign Immunity and Civil Liability

Generally speaking, the police are immune from various types of claims. This means that you cannot sue the police department in many situations. For example, if you are injured in a car accident while riding in a police cruiser, you likely cannot sue the police department, even if the driver caused the accident through their own negligence.

However, under federal law, you can sue the police if they have violated your civil rights. Referred to as a “Section 1983 claim,” 42 U.S.C. 1983 gives you the right to bring a civil claim against any government entity that has deprived you of your “rights, privileges, or immunities” afforded by the United States Constitution or federal law. Under Section 1983, you can sue the police department in Pennsylvania if they have deprived you of your rights. If successful, you will be awarded monetary damages to compensate you for your harm.

Police Brutality

Many claims against the police involve the use of excessive force. However, the police are authorized to use whatever force is necessary in the following situations:

  • In order to make an arrest
  • In order to defend themselves
  • In order to defend someone else

If the police use more force than is necessary, they may be sued for police brutality. Necessary force is determined by what a reasonable person would consider necessary under the same circumstances and with the police officer’s knowledge. For example, shooting an armed suspect who is threatening someone may be deemed reasonable force, while beating an unarmed and cooperative suspect would not.

Police brutality can result in severe injuries, and in some cases, even death. If you have been the victim of police brutality, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and other losses.

False Arrest

You can also sue the police in Pennsylvania if you have been the victim of a false arrest. A false arrest is a violation of your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

The police commit a false arrest if they arrest someone without authority or outside the scope of their powers. For example, arresting someone without an arrest warrant and for the sole purpose of harassment would be a false arrest. In that situation, the victim would have a Section 1983 claim against the police for violation of their civil rights.

That said, it’s important to understand the difference between a false arrest and a bad arrest. The police cannot be sued if the police had reasonable cause to believe you committed a crime or were in the process of committing one, even if it was later shown that they were mistaken.

If you are the victim of a false arrest, you may be entitled to compensation for any fear or anxiety it has caused you, as well as embarrassment or damage to your reputation. False arrest claims often also involve some degree of police brutality as well. The best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced civil rights attorney to understand what damages you may be able to claim.

Discrimination

Some claims against the police arise from discrimination, alleging that the police have engaged in a pattern of misconduct aimed specifically at ethnic, religious, or other minorities. These cases can be challenging to bring, as it can be difficult to prove that the pattern of conduct exists. That said, discrimination cases often include other claims such as false arrest or police brutality. If you believe you have been singled out by the police due to your race, gender, or ethnicity, you may be able to sue the police for the harm you have suffered.

What Your Claim May Be Worth

If your rights have been violated by the police, it can be difficult to assign a value to the loss you suffered – the fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and even physical injuries may be too great. That said, you are entitled to be made whole, even for those injuries that may not be obvious. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to the following:

  • Compensation for your physical injuries. This includes all of your medical bills, both covered and not covered by insurance, as well as any anticipated future medical expenses.
  • Lost income. If you missed work or lost your job as a result of being injured or falsely imprisoned, you are entitled to be compensated for the income you have lost.
  • Pain, suffering, and emotional distress. As with any personal injury claim, you are entitled to compensation for any pain and suffering caused by the police’s violation of your rights. In addition, you may also be entitled to compensation for any emotional distress they caused, even if you did not suffer any physical harm.

An experienced civil rights attorney can assign a concrete value to your claim so that you can begin to move forward with your life.

Contact Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyer Lauren Wimmer if the Police Violated Your Rights

Philadelphia civil rights attorney Lauren Wimmer believes that the police should be held accountable when they violate your rights. She will fight tirelessly for your rights and knows how to get you compensation for your losses. If you’ve been harmed by the police and don’t know where to turn, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 to schedule your free consultation.