Police misconduct entered the spotlight a few years ago and has been a flash point of political debate and social vitriol ever since. It doesn’t matter what your stance is on the police force in general, the fact remains that officers are in a position of authority. When there is misconduct, citizens can feel as if there’s little or no recourse. You may even righteously feel as though you’ll be charged and punished through no fault or action of your own.
Determining Police Misconduct
If you don’t have a law degree or haven’t had many dealings with the police, you may not be fully aware of what constitutes police brutality. An officer does have the right to use force. How do you determine if he used excessive force?
Excessive force is determined to be force that’s unnecessary to make an arrest or subdue an assailant. If you’re not attacking the officer, if you are abiding by his or her instructions and not resisting in any way, but are injured during an arrest, there might be an indication that there’s a case for police brutality. Similarly, misconduct might include a false arrest or falsifying information. If you’re charged with an offense, it can be intimidating because the law seems weighted to favor the police officer’s word over the citizen who is being detained.
If you reasonably feel that the police behavior was unwarranted, that their actions were excessive, or that you were the victim of misconduct, there are several types of recourse available.
Your Rights in the Event of an Arrest
The right to remain silent is essential in these cases. If you’ve been arrested, especially if you feel that your rights have been violated, you don’t want to speak with police except when necessary. Your first step should be to ask for a lawyer. Voicing a complaint against the officer prior to gaining legal representation can be problematic because it may compromise your ability not to incriminate yourself. If you feel that the arrest is not warranted or any portion of the altercation with police was the result of misconduct on their part, contact a lawyer immediately.
Your Options in Filing a Complaint
If you feel your rights have been violated, there are a number of options in filing a complaint against the officer. These options should be discussed with legal counsel. There can be repercussions to your own prosecution, if charges are pending in the incident, and one complaint can possibly negatively impact another. A competent attorney can explain the best course of action for your well being as well as the interest of justice.
- Internal Affairs Complaints. Complaints can be filed against an officer internally, through a police entity known as Internal Affairs. When you file a complaint this way, the officer is not charged with a crime, but is investigated by officers in charge of police affairs. This may result in disciplinary action. What you should also be aware of is that this means that your information will be documented; any information you furnish to the department goes on legal record and can be used against you if you are being charged with a crime.
- Criminal Complaint. Victims of police abuse may be justified in filing criminal charges. State charges would be filed by a District Attorney and it’s at the DA’s discretion whether or not to pursue the charges. In a Federal complaint, the officer would be prosecuted by the Justice Department. This may also be an option because excessive force violates your civil rights.
- Civil Suits. In a civil suit, you would be seeking damages as a result of police misconduct or brutality. Monetary awards may be made to cover pain and suffering as well as any medical bills that were incurred during the altercation.
Have You Been A Victim of Police Brutality?
If you’ve been a victim of police misconduct, excessive force, or brutality, it’s important that you have all of the information you need to make the best decisions for your future. Our firm has a successful track record in representing victims of police brutality cases. Contact us today for a free legal review to discuss your options.