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Police Misconduct

The term “police misconduct” is most frequently used to describe a wide range of unlawful police conduct that violates the civil rights of those whom they come into contact with while performing their duties. Other terms for police misconduct include police brutality; cop misconduct; cop brutality; deputy sheriff misconduct; and prison guard brutality. This occurs most often while officers investigate reports of suspicious activity, during traffic stops, and while responding to complaints of domestic violence. Police officers are authorized, where necessary, to use reasonable force in performing their duties. The term “seizure” is used in a legal context and covers situations as varied as a detention, however brief while conducting an investigation, to the use of force against an individual. Stated simply, whether a seizure is lawful or falls under the description of police-misconduct, depends upon whether the officers conduct was reasonable or not under the circumstances.  Individuals seeking redress for a violation of their civil rights typically do so under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states as follows:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things…

Lawsuits seeking monetary damages for civil rights violations of this nature are typically pursued the under Federal statute 42 U.S.C §1983.

In general, the seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force in the performance of his or her duties. A police officer may use only such force that is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances known to the officer at the time.  Officer use of force includes a wide range of conduct, including the following: shooting a firearm, baton strikes, the deployment of a Taser, police dogs, bean bags, pepper spray, and tear gas. It also includes fist strikes and kicks by the officer, the application of over tight handcuffs causing injury, and chocking an individual to bring him or her under the officers control, all in the performance of their duties.

In the civil liberties context, under the Fourth Amendment, an individuals’ right not to be subject to unlawful search, seizure, and false arrest by a police officer, is on an equal footing with an individuals’ civil right to be free from the use of excessive force by an officer.

Officers of our police and sheriffs’ departments have to follow the law as they go about their duties, one of the most important being their responsibility to keep our streets safe. Unfortunately, our courts, a vigilant press, and victims of police misconduct themselves, inform us daily of many of those unjustifiably injured or killed, at the hands of the very individuals whose duty it is to “protect and serve” them.

Pruitt v Alexander

Represented client injured by custodial staff while in prison. Case settled for $500,000 before trial.

Riley v Orange County

Represented client injured by custodial staff while in jail. Case settled for $335,000 before trial.

Confidential Settlement.

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.