In spite of what some may tell you, the police are not above the law and are not permitted to act without due process. If the police have violated the civil rights of yourself or a close relative, you may have grounds to file a civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. §1983. This law allows individuals to sue government officials, including police officers, who violate their constitutional rights. Although it gives individuals the right to hold officials accountable, it does not outline exactly what rights those are, which means that understanding and protecting our civil liberties is a continuous responsibility for all citizens. In the case of law enforcement, the primary violation tends to consist of using excessive force during an arrest.
What Is Due Process?
Due process is the legal principle that the government follows fair and impartial procedures when taking action against someone’s life, liberty, and property. Several constitutional amendments define each of those factors, what they encompass, and what entity (such as state or federal organizations) an individual can be protected from within those circumstances. In the event that someone has broken the law, the legal expectation is that they are lawfully taken into custody through reasonable action, where they will then have the right to contact an attorney. Essentially, this means that the police don’t have the right to physically harm you when you are being detained and cannot prevent you from seeking legal counsel.
What To Do If You’re Harmed By Police
In this scenario, we have to assume that you have already posted bail or were released from police custody. The process of suing those involved works similarly to a personal injury case. Here are some steps you can take:
- Seek medical attention: Law enforcement is notoriously negligent when providing victims with appropriate medical care, especially in their custody. If you are unable to receive medical care while in police custody, once released, you must receive medical treatment as soon as possible. Photograph the injuries to provide supplemental documentation for your medical records.
- Gather Information: If there were witnesses to the event, try to collect eyewitness accounts and their information from those willing to testify. If possible, obtain the name and badge number of the officer(s) involved and their supervisor during the event. Police are not obligated to notify individuals when they finish their report.
- Contact an attorney: Our firm is highly experienced in civil rights law. We can evaluate the case and provide guidance on your legal options. An attorney can also assist in collecting the necessary evidence and work as a proxy when communicating with law enforcement during this traumatic time.
If you and your attorney determine a necessary lawsuit, they will help prepare your case for court and file the complaint through the appropriate channels. The experience can be overwhelming, especially in the face of an organization as powerful as law enforcement, but your rights are still important and should be protected.
What Happens If We Win the Lawsuit?
Although those responsible will never be able to take back the harm they’ve caused you and your family, you may still be entitled to some form of restitution. Depending on the severity and the circumstances leading up to the lawsuit and the jurisdiction or court circuit in which it took place, there are a few possible outcomes:
- Monetary Compensation: You may be entitled to be compensated monetarily for the harm you suffered due to the violation of your rights. These damages often include medical expenses, pain and suffering (such as lost wages), and emotional distress.
- Punitive Damages or injunctive Relief: If the court finds that the violation was especially reckless, they will likely bring charges to those responsible. In some scenarios, they may order the police department to implement new procedures or training programs to prevent future conflict.
The path to justice is not always an easy one, however. These cases can often be lengthy and emotionally draining, so you may need to lean on support systems. If the police have harmed you or someone you love, you are not alone. For legal guidance on civil rights matters or criminal defense, call or text the firm of Ryan Brown, Attorney at Law, at (806) 372-5711.
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