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Police Misconduct Lawyers


If you’ve been subjected to harm as a result of a police officer’s unreasonable actions, then we encourage you to work with experienced civil rights attorneys who can help you explore the possibility of a lawsuit. These attorneys specialize in fighting for victims of police misconduct and discrimination, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Law enforcement officers have an important position and role in society, as enforcers of justice — when they abuse their power, it can cause ripple effects throughout society. The feeling of powerlessness at the hands of a police officer is particularly damaging. Oftentimes, victims don’t feel that they can do anything to stop the police officer, since there is no one “above” the officer to supervise their misconduct and prevent it from occurring.

Ready to learn more about police misconduct? Read on as we explore some of the basics.

What is the definition of police misconduct?

Police misconduct is defined in various ways, depending on the particular state jurisdiction that applies to your case.  That being said, general definitions are useful and are broadly similar across jurisdictions.

Generally speaking, police misconduct can be defined as any “wrongdoing” committed by a police officer in the performance of their duties.  Not all misconduct is illegal — some of it is inappropriate and unethical, but not necessarily criminal in nature.  The “wrongdoing” at issue is contextual in many cases.

For example, excessive force is only excessive if the level of force used by the officer is not justified by the circumstances.  Thus, wrongdoing will have to be determined based on the entire corpus of evidence introduced into the dispute.

Police misconduct often intersects with civil rights law, including claims under the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

What happens if a cop violates your constitutional rights?

Normally, police officers enjoy immunity from liability for the performance of their job-related duties. This is to ensure that police officers can do their work in chaotic, often violent environments without having to be concerned with the specific outcomes of a mistake made in the line of duty.

That being said, this legal immunity can be stripped if the police officer violated your constitutional rights. The United States Constitution guarantees protection against unlawful searches and seizures, due process rights, and other civil rights under specific amendments like the 4th, 5th, and 14th. When your rights have been violated, you’re empowered under the law to sue the officer and obtain compensation. Police misconduct lawsuits can often be resolved through a settlement if the particularities of the abuse are problematic enough to draw public ire.

For example, if police officers used excessive force against you when arresting you, and the body cam footage was tampered with (proving a corruptive tendency in the local police force), then the police may prefer to settle the case early and avoid the hassle and publicity of litigation.

What is an example of police violating civil rights?

Examples of civil rights violations by police include:

  • False arrest
  • Coerced false confessions
  • Intimidation
  • Falsification of evidence
  • Spoliation of evidence
  • Unwarranted surveillance
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Excessive or unreasonable use of force
  • Sexual assault by a police officer
  • Racial profiling
  • Unlawful detention
  • Police brutality
  • Failure to intervene
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • And more

Phew! That’s a lot of different types of violations. Given how varied the forms of civil rights violations there are in the policing context, it’s important that you consult with a qualified civil rights attorney for guidance. If you believe that you may have been a victim of police misconduct, the attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine whether it is suitable to anchor a lawsuit and seek justice and compensation.

Is being disrespectful to police a crime?

No. You have a right to be disrespectful and rude to police. That being said, if the police officer has a justified reason to stop you or arrest you, then being “rude” could be interpreted as legal contempt, which is an offense. As such, it’s generally good practice to maintain a polite demeanor with law enforcement — even if you feel that they are overstepping their bounds and violating your rights.

The time to punish police for perceived abuses of power isn’t in the moment that they are doing so, but is instead once you’ve been able to talk to an attorney about how to approach a potential misconduct lawsuit. Individuals can seek a free consultation to discuss potential police misconduct cases.

What are three types of police abuse of authority?

While there are several different types of police abuse of authority, three of the most common include:

  • Excessive force
  • Racial profiling
  • Unlawful detainment/arrest

Police departments are often involved in various forms of misconduct, such as excessive force, wrongful arrests, unjustified searches, withholding of evidence, and unlawful shootings. These actions can lead to devastating consequences, including undeserved imprisonment, severe injuries, and damage to victims’ reputations.

Most people have a general understanding of what each of these abuses of authority entails, but let’s run through the excessive force abuse for further clarity.

What is excessive force?

As a general rule, police officers cannot use excessive force during an arrest, and the use of excessive force is a violation of your constitutional rights.  That being said, police are allowed to use as much force as “reasonably necessary” to complete an arrest.  What qualifies as reasonable in this context will depend on a number of different factors.

For example, a police officer is justified in using an increased amount of force if: a) you pose an immediate threat; b) the severity of the crime; and c) you resisted arrest or otherwise attempted to escape arrest.

The primary challenge in navigating an excessive force claim is the evidentiary issue — the police officer can try to argue that you posed an immediate threat, or that you resisted arrest, even if you did not.  This tactic is common, as courts often assume the legitimacy of a police officer’s statements, even if they are lying — you’ll have to introduce additional evidence to establish the true narrative.  Video evidence of the police officer’s misconduct (or even eyewitness testimony) is invaluable.

Settlements are common in police misconduct cases

In most civil disputes, the case is resolved through a negotiated settlement compromise. In fact, industry observers estimate that as much as 95 percent of cases are concluded through settlement. That’s a significant supermajority of disputes. Police misconduct attorneys play a crucial role in helping victims negotiate these settlements, leveraging their expertise in civil rights violations, police brutality, and unconstitutional governmental conduct. But why are settlements so common (in police misconduct cases and others)?

As a general rule, litigation tends to be:

  • Costly
  • Uncertain
  • Demanding
  • Public
  • And more

Given these challenging aspects, many parties would rather avoid litigation and reach a settlement.

For example, uncertainty is innate to litigation — even if you have a strong case, there’s a chance that you will not be awarded the full damages that you’re claiming. The court might not find in your favor, or might award reduced damages based on their interpretation of the evidence. Instead of going through the litigation process and dealing with this inherent uncertainty, many parties would rather evaluate the likelihood of success (should the case proceed to trial) and negotiate a settlement based on those evaluations.

Is it costly to hire experienced police misconduct lawyers?

Most police misconduct lawyers work on a contingency basis, so they don’t cost anything upfront or out-of-pocket. Instead, they take a percentage cut of the overall compensation that they’re able to secure on your behalf (this percentage can range from 25 percent to 40 percent or more). You only have to give the attorney this percentage cut if they help you successfully obtain compensation — if you don’t win, then you don’t have to pay anything. Many police misconduct lawyers also offer a free case evaluation to help victims understand their legal options.

There are two unique advantages to contingency fee arrangements. First, contingency fees lower the barrier to entry for hiring an attorney and getting started with a police misconduct lawsuit. You don’t have to be rich to pursue your legal rights — in fact, you don’t need any money at all. Second, contingency fees incentivize attorneys to work efficiently and effectively to “win” the dispute and maximize your compensation. After all, they only get paid if you win compensation, and the more you get paid, the more they get paid.

If you’ve been injured or otherwise harmed due to police misconduct, then you could be entitled to significant compensation under the law. Navigating a police misconduct case can be very challenging, however, and you’ll find that the guidance of experienced police misconduct lawyers is critical to success — after all, the nature of misconduct is such that police corruption and incompetence are likely to make the evidentiary record sparse or even inconsistent, thus making for a particularly challenging dispute. That’s why it’s so important to work with a qualified police misconduct lawyer early on in the process.

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free legal consultation with one of the experienced civil rights attorneys in our network. During the initial consultation, you’ll be able to discuss your case in detail and get professional advice on how best to proceed so as to maximize your likelihood of success. If you decide against moving forward with our network attorney, that’s okay too — there’s no obligation. As such, there’s really no downside to picking up the phone and getting started today!

We look forward to assisting you.

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If you’ve suffered losses due to another’s fault, then the law may entitle you to sue the responsible parties and recover damages as compensation. As the case develops, however, you may find that it is more complex — and more challenging — than you initially thought.

We can connect you to an experienced attorney who has the skillset and experience necessary to handle your case. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Posted On: July 1, 2024