Excessive Force by Government Agents
Government agents, especially the police, have a responsibility to protect and serve the public. Even though most police officers in Virginia and Washington, DC perform their duties with integrity and professionalism, both mistakes and intentional brutality do occur.
In some instances, merely questioning an officer’s statement can result in an aggressive and immediate reaction. In other cases, actions such as taking a video of law enforcement officers can result in an arrest in violation of the First Amendment’s free speech rights. These practices cannot go unchecked.
Government agents, including police officers, are responsible for enforcing the law, but we receive far too many calls from people who have experienced excessive force at the hands of police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and other government agents. We have also encountered occasional problems with stalking, harassment, and other inappropriate behavior by law enforcement officers.
Generally speaking, once an individual complies with law enforcement, any use of force beyond what is necessary for compliance is excessive. The majority of use of force incidents are justifiable and legal; however, excessive force is illegal and, in some cases, criminal. Excessive force cases can range from unnecessary force used in the course of a detention to wrongful death matters involving shootings, tasers, and other weapons used by law enforcement and other government actors.
If you call us to discuss an excessive force claim, be prepared to answer some or all of the following questions:
- Is there video or audio of the incident?
- Did the officer stop applying force once the suspect was disabled, subdued, detained, or no longer posing a threat?
- What type of injuries did the suspect suffer? Did the suspect require medical care?
- Was the suspect offered medical care at the scene?
- If a taser was used, how many times and for how long was the suspect shocked?
- If a weapon such as a taser, baton, or pepper spray was used, did the officer intentionally aim the spray at the suspect’s face at close range? If so, did the officer do this after the suspect was handcuffed?
- Once the suspect was handcuffed, how was the suspect handled? Was he or she thrown to the ground, thrown against an object, or struck by the officer?
- How was the suspect processed after the initial detention? Was the suspect moved directly to jail?
If you or someone you know was the victim of an excessive force incident, including a police shooting, you may have the right to take action. The laws that apply to these incidents are complex and sometimes subject to strict time limits. They require a dedicated excessive force lawyer to review the information and determine if a case exists.
Every citizen from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia hopes that government agents will not take advantage of their positions of authority and will instead continually seek to respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of every citizen. In those instances when officers exceed their authority and deprive a citizen of the protections afforded to them by the law, however, our attorneys can help you hold the government agents accountable.