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Section 1983

Standing Up for Clients in Philadelphia Who Suffered Civil Rights Violations

Section 1983 of the United States Code is a federal law that allows a private citizen to sue a police officer, police department, or another governmental entity or official in order to enforce their rights. More specifically, Section 1983 allows an ordinary citizen to make a “constitutional tort” claim against the government. In order for a Section 1983 claim to be successful, the citizen must be able to successfully demonstrate the specific federal right that the government official – often a police officer – violated.

While we are supposed to trust the police, officers in Philadelphia regularly violate the rights of citizens in various ways. If you think your rights were violated, Philadelphia Section 1983 Attorney Lauren Wimmer at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law may be able to help. She can examine what happened can advise you whether you may have a case under Section 1983.

Proving a 1983 Claim

Section 1983 cases can involve both federal and state law. Consequently, when someone files a complaint, the case may proceed forward in the federal court system or in the state court system. In Section 1983 cases, the person whose rights were violated has the burden of proof. Specifically, the victim must be able to prove the following:

That the police officer was acting in their official capacity as a government employee
That the police officer deprived the individual of some right that is guaranteed under federal law or the Constitution
That the police officer’s wrongful actions resulted in injuries and damages

Even if you know what happened was wrong and you know the police violated your rights, proving the above elements in court can be more difficult than you may imagine. This is especially true because police officers and agencies will often defend against any claims or evidence you present to avoid liability. It is critical that anyone in this situation has an attorney on their side who understands how to prove Section 1983 claims.

When Can You File a Claim?

Many civil rights violations can give you the right to take legal action under Section 1983. Many of these stem from your Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment right to due process of law. Some common reasons for Section 1983 claims against the police include the following:

  • Police brutality
  • Use of excessive force
  • False imprisonment
  • Unjustified and warrantless searches
  • Unjustified and warrantless arrests
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Mistreatment of incarcerated individuals

These are only some ways that police officers and departments can violate your rights. Such violations may not only cause physical harm, but also financial harm, emotional distress, and harm to your reputation. You deserve to hold the police fully accountable when they cause you such harm.

Many people don’t realize they have the right to take legal action after a civil rights violation. You should always have a skilled civil rights attorney review how police officers acted to determine your rights. Our firm is committed to holding the police responsible for their misconduct, so please call as soon as possible.

Proving Damages in a Section 1983 Claim

Whenever someone files a claim under Section 1983, they must be able to demonstrate that they are entitled to damages. These damages may include both compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages against the police officer or department. A claim for damages may include any or all of the following:

  • Compensation for medical costs and supplies arising out of the incident
  • Back pay for time missed from work as a direct result of the occurrence
  • Compensation for lost future earnings stemming from an inability to work that was brought on by the occurrence
  • Mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering
  • Physical pain and suffering allegedly resulting from the incident
  • Disability compensation

In cases when someone can successfully prove fault on the part of the police but is unable to prove injuries and damages, then the court may award them nominal damages – usually in the amount of one dollar. Proving damages can be more challenging than most people think, as you also must prove your harm and losses directly stemmed from the civil rights violation. Again, police departments know how to aggressively challenge claimed damages to prevent liability.

Victims may also be able to pursue punitive damages in Section 1983 cases. To get punitive damages, they must establish that the police officer’s actions were intentional – or that the police acted in a manner that totally disregarded the victim’s rights. Even if a jury does not award the victim compensatory damages, such as for medical costs and pain and suffering, the jury could still award punitive damages under certain egregious circumstances – such as when an officer uses excessive force and causes permanent injury. When a jury is considering punitive damages and the amount to award, it will often consider just how reprehensible the actions of the police were, as well as the impact the officer’s conduct had on the victim. It’s critical to demonstrate the full effects of the police officer’s wrongful conduct on you, your life, and your family to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.

Contact a Philadelphia §1983 Attorney Right Away

The number of Section 1983 claims in civil courts has increased significantly over the years, as many people are more determined to hold police officers accountable for misconduct and causing harm. Additionally, many Section 1983 cases go hand-in-hand with criminal cases arising from civil rights violations. It can be difficult to know where to turn in this situation.

The Philadelphia law firm of Wimmer Criminal Defense Law both defends against serious criminal charges and strives to protect your rights in Section 1983 claims. Experienced legal representation can go a long way when it comes to proving your civil rights case and getting the justice you deserve.

To schedule your free consultation and case evaluation with experienced Philadelphia §1983 attorney Lauren Wimmer, please call today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online.

Determine if filing a 1983 claim is right for you

Call Wimmer Criminal Defense at (215) 712-1212 to discuss your rights today.