Know Your Civil Rights

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It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself.

Police are intended to serve, protect, and uphold their duties with civilians at all times, regardless if it is during an arrest or not. Unfortunately, there are more and more incidents where officers fail to maintain suspects’, or other civilians’, civil rights. Victims who have had their civil rights violated by officers may be able to file a claim and receive compensation through a Civil Rights Lawsuit. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act gives rights to those who became victims of police misconduct, making it illegal for anyone employed by the authority of the state to deny another human being of their rights. Civil rights claims covered under this law could include: false arrest, excessive or unnecessary use of force, vindictive prosecution, sexual assault by an officer, Miranda rights violations, inhumane treatment, and more.

False arrest claims indicate that an officer violated a victim’s Fourth Amendment right against an unlawful search and seizure. In most false arrest cases, the officer in question must show that they had reason to believe the victim was a suspect of a crime, before they made the arrest. If the officer learns the suspect was not guilty of the crime after the arrest, they may still not be liable for false arrest if they believed the information to be accurate at the time of the arrest. The victim and their lawyer must prove that the arresting officer lacked reasonable cause or sufficient evidence for a rational person to believe the victim committed a crime.

Excessive force by police officers has unfortunately become far too common. There are many different examples as to what could constitute an excessive use of force. In many instances, officers fail to use verbal commands before resorting to physical force against a suspect. When officers do not use verbal communication, whether purposely or accidentally, before becoming physical with a suspect, the victim may claim police brutality. Additionally, when there is no need to use physical force, such as with a cooperative or restrained suspect, and the officer chooses to do so anyway, they could be held accountable in a civil rights lawsuit. In these claims, deciding whether the amount of force an officer used was appropriate will solely depend on the case’s facts and circumstances. The court will concentrate on whether the officer used an appropriate amount of force for the situation at hand, rather than their intentions. Regardless, if the officer had good intentions, if they used an unjustifiable amount of force or inflicted unnecessary injury to the victim, the officer can be held accountable in a civil rights lawsuit.

If a suspect is in custody, regardless of where that may be, they are entitled to Miranda rights. If an officer fails to read a suspect their Miranda rights, the prosecutor cannot use anything the suspect said as evidence in court. During or after an arrest, before any interrogation, the officer must disclose to a suspect that: They have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them in the court of law, that they have the right to an attorney, and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them. The right to remain silent is one of the most important rights of a suspect, as they cannot be forced to incriminate themselves by telling information to the police. Officers are responsible for establishing their own evidence to prove the suspect has in fact committed a crime. If a suspect was not informed that there were consequences of speaking, was denied the right to an attorney during questioning, or was not provided a public defender, they may have a valid claim in a civil rights lawsuit.

There are many other instances that could account for a civil rights lawsuit against officers. This includes inhumane treatment during questioning or holding, holding a suspect for an extended period without officially charging them with a crime, a suspect being treated as guilty before their trial, or failure to give a suspect a speedy trial. Due to the Qualified Immunity given to officers, intended to protect them from personal liability, it is crucial to have an experienced law firm by your side. Officers are not protected by immunity if they violate “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights of which a rational person would have known. If you believe your civil rights have been violated at the hands of officers, contact our team of lawyers today!