When is Police Force Considered Excessive?


3/4/2019

Your rights under the United States Constitution do not vanish when you are arrested or charged with a crime. Specifically, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the federal Constitution guarantee your rights to be free of unlawful searches and seizures and not to be forced to incriminate yourself. Other state and federal civil rights laws and statutes are in place for the purpose of safeguarding individuals’ rights before, during, and after the time of your arrest.

The unfortunate reality of modern life is that the police violate these rights on a regular basis, sometimes with devastating results. When police officers and other law enforcement arguably go too far when making an arrest or chasing after a fleeing suspect, the law penalizes this behavior. However, when they are encountering individuals, such as when making an arrest, police officers are allowed to use some degree of reasonable force. However, if the amount of force used is deemed excessive, victims can often hold the cops liable through a civil lawsuit and recover compensation for their losses.

Philadelphia civil rights lawyer Lauren Wimmer has a track record of success of holding cops and police departments accountable when they violate the citizens’ rights. Ms. Wimmer will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your claim and determine whether you have a claim against the police officers that hurt you. To schedule a free consultation with Ms. Wimmer, call our office today at 215-712-1212.

What is the Allowable Amount of Force?

The law permits police officers to use a limited amount of force against a suspect while carrying out their official duties. For example, cops may be able to use this force when they are making an arrest or when they are chasing a suspect who is attempting to elude and flee from the police. In most circumstances, a police officer is permitted to use an amount of force that is reasonably necessary to defend himself or herself.

Determining what constitutes a “reasonable amount of force” is a very fact-sensitive inquiry. In other words, what constitutes reasonable force under one set of circumstances may not constitute reasonable force under another set of circumstances. If the police officer’s attempt to arrest a suspect is met with deadly force, then the officer is arguably allowed to use deadly force against the suspect.

If the suspect did not use deadly force against the arresting officer, but the arresting officer responded with deadly force, then it is more likely that the officer used excessive force. The decision as to whether a police officer’s use of force was excessive typically rests with the finder of fact, which will either be a judge or a jury.

How a Civil Rights Lawyer Can Help You

Excessive police force cases are extremely fact-sensitive, and the outcome of the case typically rests upon all of the circumstances in play. As a victim of police brutality, an experienced Philadelphia civil rights lawyer may be able to assist you in the following ways:

  • Determine Whether You Have a Claim – Not every case of forceful policing allows victims to recover compensation. An experienced civil rights lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine whether you may be able to file a claim.
  • Retain an Experienced Investigator – An investigator can review all of the circumstances in an attempt to determine precisely what happened during the altercation.
  • Subpoena Evidence – In some cases, the police department may resist handing over evidence such as internal documentation or an officer’s personnel file. When this occurs, an attorney may be able to request that a court compel the department to hand over the requested evidence.
  • Interview witnesses – Individuals who were present at the scene and who observed firsthand what was happening can often provide powerful testimonial evidence regarding the incident.
  • File a Claim on Your Behalf – In some cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and conduct a civil trial in order to obtain compensation. Remember, filing a claim against the police is a serious matter. It’s imperative that you retain an attorney prior to taking any action that could put the police on notice that you intended to pursue legal action against a particular officer or the department as a whole.

Self-Defense in Excessive Force Cases

Police officers are allowed to use reasonable force in self-defense when making an arrest. When this occurs, it’s critical that victims are able to present evidence in support of their position that the officer’s use of force was unreasonable under the circumstances. An attorney familiar with police brutality cases may be able to establish that the officer that injured you was not acting in self-defense and that his or her use of force was unlawful.

Qualified Immunity Defense

A police officer who is accused of using excessive force during a police chase or arrest may be able to raise the defense of qualified immunity. The reason for this defense is to prevent fear of legal prosecution by precluding a police officer from performing his or her job duties and enforcing the law.

An officer may be able to beat an excessive force charge if he or she did not violate a person’s statutory or constitutional rights. If the activity which the police officer was trying to prevent the suspect from engaging in was not protected under the law in the first place, then the officer may be afforded qualified immunity in a case involving excessive police force.

Contact Us Today to Discuss Your Case with a Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorney

If the police used excessive force during an encounter with you or violated your rights in any other way, it’s imperative that you retain a lawyer as soon as you can. Attorney Lauren Wimmer knows that the police are not always the good guys they claim to be and will thoroughly evaluate your case to determine whether you can take legal action.

To schedule your free consultation and case evaluation with a Philadelphia civil rights lawyer, please call us today at 215-712-1212, or contact us online