Civil rights violations are not new, and their frequency is not necessarily on the rise, but the new media ensures that when they do occur, they enjoy the widespread publicity. Advances in technology have made it possible that many incidents during which police officers use force while performing their duties are recorded on video by victims and bystanders on their cell phone cameras, and also by officers who are increasingly required to wear body cams. This publicity has heightened public awareness, both about the civil rights we all enjoy, as well as the extent to which these civil rights are frequently violated. The application of non-lethal excessive or unnecessary force by law enforcement officers comes in many forms. These include the following: being shot, baton strikes, Taser deployment, the illegal use of police dogs, the deployment of bean bags, pepper spray, and tear gas, fist strikes and kicks, the application of overtight handcuffs, and using chocking to control someone.
Reasonable people agree that law enforcement officers have a difficult job. For this reason, they are afforded a certain amount of immunity or protection from civil liability (qualified immunity) as long as they do not unreasonably violate the law; but excessive force is never ok. As a result, it can be difficult to hold police officers accountable in a court of law. Most lawsuits seeking damages for the violation of an individual’s civil rights are filed in Federal Court under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983. To have a successful claim, you must convince a jury that the force used against you, was under all the circumstances known to the officer at the time, unreasonable. In this context, it is important to comply with an officer’s lawful requests or orders, and not to physically resist arrest.
The legal issues in this area of law are numerous and complex. Speak to one of our police brutality attorneys as soon as possible and allow them to review the facts of your case before submitting anything to the courts.
Time is of the essence as there are statutes of limitations applicable to all civil claims against governmental agencies, and their employees, such as police officers and sheriffs’ deputies. You will need a lawyer as soon as possible. For claims based upon federal statute (42 USC Section 1983 claims) there is a two-year statute of limitations in California. For California State law claims, such as Civil Code section 52.1 claims (a California statute which includes recovery of damages for federal civil rights violations), and claims for assault, battery, and negligence, it is mandatory to give notice of your intent to file a lawsuit to the individual police officer or deputy sheriff’s employer. This has to be done no later than six months following the incident during which the injury occurred. Unless filed in a timely manner you will forever lose your ability to file a lawsuit for damages.
When relating the events surrounding your injury to one of our lawyers, be sure to have a coherent and clear account of the event. If details are blurry, then have a good reason for your lack of memory. Also, have any and all witnesses available for an interview, including what they may have recorded by video or photo on their phones, cameras or tablets. Attention to detail is very important to the success of any potential lawsuit.
Call to speak with one of our excessive force attorneys in Riverside, San Bernadino or Orange County.
Represented client injured by custodial staff while in prison. Case settled for $500,000 before trial.
Represented client injured by custodial staff while in jail. Case settled for $335,000 before trial.
Represented client subject to unreasonable search and seizure, and then subject to excessive force, being Tased by a police officer. Case settled for $400,000 before trial.