Protecting Your Rights Against Police Misconduct
At Law Office of Joseph F. Hennessey, we often receive phone calls seeking to file lawsuits against police officers as a result of arrests or harassment.
If you have been harassed by a police officer or if the police violated your rights in any way, talk with our experienced attorney, Joseph Hennessey. We fight to protect the rights of clients in Worcester and throughout Massachusetts.
While the police are given specific powers to aid them in carrying out their jobs, some individuals take these powers to the extreme and violate the rights of citizens in their time of need. If this has happened to you, you may be able to fight back through either federal or state laws. Civil rights laws were instated to protect civilians from abuse by the government. This includes protecting citizens from abuse by the police.
It’s important to note that not every situation is a violation of your rights. The police are legally allowed to stop you in connection with possible criminal activity and they can ask you questions about that activity. However, they still need to perform their job properly. The failure to act appropriately and protect civilians is not enough to bring a lawsuit against a police officer. However, unreasonable force or behavior that violates your constitutional rights may be enough to create liability.
You deserve to be protected by the police who are sworn to protect and serve you. If a police officer has used unnecessary force against you or someone else during a traffic stop or other interaction, you may be able to take legal action, but you must act quickly. The time period in which you must file a complain is short and depends on where you live. The sooner you take action, the more like you are to get justice.
Civil Rights Law Regarding Police Misconduct
Section 1983 was created in 1871 to protect civilians from oppressive government conduct and the actions of individuals. Today, it is widely used by attorneys who advocate for victims of police misconduct. Section 1983 ensures that it is illegal for someone acting under the law to restrict someone else from the rights given to them by the constitution or federal law. Today, we most often see this used as a defense in the following types of cases:
- Arresting an individual under false pretenses
- Excessive or unwarranted use of force
- Malicious prosecution
False Arrest Claims
False arrest is the most common claim we receive. In this situation the person making this claim is stating that their fourth amendment rights weren’t respected and they were unlawfully arrested. However, this is one of the most difficult types of cases to prove. As long as the officer believed they were doing the right thing, even if they weren’t, the court will likely support their actions.
For example: Woman says that her boyfriend hit her; though the officer never saw the hitting or saw signs of any hitting, the officer has probable cause to arrest for domestic assault and battery. Later, if that information is revealed not to be true, the officer still cannot be charged with a false arrest because he believed the information to be true when he arrested the boyfriend.
Malicious Prosecution Claims
Another claim that we often receive is one for a malicious prosecution claim. Malicious prosecution claims mean that a police officer took away another person’s right to liberty under the 14th amendment. To win this claim, an individual must prove:
- The police initiated criminal proceedings
- The victim was not convicted
- There was no probable cause to charge the person
- The criminal proceedings were brought forward with ill-intent or malice
Similarly to false arrest, if the officer had a good reason to initiate the criminal proceedings, the claim will not be successful.
Excessive Force Claims
While police offers sometimes need to use force during their jobs, the use of force must still be considered reasonable. Every situation is different and it can be difficult to convict an officer for excessive force if he truly believed that his life, or the lives of others, were in danger.
Excessive force cases can quickly become complicated for many reasons. Social media and publicity can play a huge role, as can spectators and witnesses. Police officers who are present at the scene but fail to intervene may be convicted for not stepping in and preventing the abuse from occurring. These claims may not be the most common, but they’re some of the most widely-recognized cases that people see on the news or read about online.
Winning A Civil Rights Violation Claim
Winning a civil rights claim can be difficult. You must present proof that the police acted unreasonably, infringed upon your constitutional rights and that you were injured in some way by the police during this exchange. There are many legal protections for police officers, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still deserve justice. If you have been treated unfairly by the police department, take photos of your injuries and document the event to the best of your ability. Next, call an attorney as soon as possible to start building your case. The period of time you have to file a complaint against a police officer will likely be short, so the sooner you take legal action, the better chance you have of winning your claim.