What is Police Brutality?
Police brutality is one of the leading causes of death for men in the U.S., according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Victims of police brutality may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Typically, instances of police brutality arise when law enforcement officers make arrests. Under those circumstances, officers must use only such force as is reasonably necessary to make the arrest; those who use excessive force may be liable for police brutality.
What Constitutes Excessive Force?
There is no specific definition of excessive force under federal law. Rather, what is considered excessive force depends on the circumstances of the case and whether a reasonable law enforcement officer in a similar situation would have used the amount of force at issue. There are several factors that may be considered in this determination, including:
- Whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of others
- The severity of the underlying crime
- Whether the suspect was attempting to flee
- Whether the officer had other, less excessive alternatives, or could have provided warnings
The degree of threat or physical coercion must be proportional to the threat to be considered a reasonable use of force. The Supreme Court has clarified that deadly force may only be used during an arrest if it is necessary to prevent the suspect from escaping and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a serious threat to others.
Police Brutality Violates Constitutional Rights
U.S citizens who are subject to police brutality may be able to sue the law enforcement officer or agency responsible for violating their constitutional rights under the following:
- Fourth Amendment: Individuals are entitled to reasonable searches and seizures, free from excessive use of force.
- Eighth Amendment: Convicted prisoners are protected by the cruel and unusual punishment clause.
- Fourteenth Amendment: Those who have been charged, but not yet convicted of a crime, are protected from police brutality under the Due Process Clause.
Remedies for Police Brutality
Government agents are granted qualified immunity, which prevents them from being sued for good-faith discretionary decisions within the scope of their jobs. However, when officials violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right, they may be liable for the damages that result.
Victims of police brutality may file a civil rights complaint under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which allows individuals to sue when their rights are violated by someone acting under the “color of state law”, a category that includes municipal police officers. Available damages in such suits include monetary compensation for costs associated with any injuries, as well as non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Philadelphia Police Brutality Lawyers at Williams Cedar Fight for Justice and Compensation for Victims
If you believe your rights were violated, contact a Philadelphia police brutality lawyer at Williams Cedar. Our experienced attorneys can explain your legal options and help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. From our offices located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey, including Cherry Hill. For a free consultation, complete our online contact form or call us at 215-557-0099.