Section 1983 Claims - Excessive Force and Illegal Searches
We are proud to litigate claims on behalf of individuals who have had their constitutional rights violated by state or local law enforcement officials. These include claims arising under the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by police officers.
The increasingly widespread use of technology such as cellphone video and police body cameras have increased awareness of the rampant nature of police misconduct, including the use of excessive force.
Law enforcement officers have a responsibility to protect and serve the public. Despite this fact, what may begin as a routine encounter with the police can escalate quickly into a violent and dangerous interaction. Police officers may resort to the improper use of force if they believe an individual to be questioning their authority or if they learn that their encounter with the individual is being filmed. These practices are wholly inappropriate and unconstitutional and cannot go unchecked.
Any use of force by a police officer beyond what is necessary to cause an individual to comply with a lawful command is excessive. Excessive, unconstitutional force is illegal and, in some cases, criminal. The injuries caused by use of excessive force may range in severity and may be caused by the use of lethal force by an officer, such as a firearm, as well as the use of less-than-lethal force, such as a taser, baton, or pepper spray.
In addition to use of force cases, our office also handles claims arising from a police officer’s arrest or detention of an individual without the requisite probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Searches of an individual’s home or vehicle absent probable cause may also be deemed unreasonable and unconstitutional, as well as searches of property performed by police officers that are unreasonably and needlessly destructive.
Police misconduct claims are not without their challenges. Unfair deference may be given to a police officer’s decisions when called into question, and a legal doctrine called qualified immunity can present a substantial barrier to success in these claims. This doctrine may have the effect of protecting police from liability even for actions found to be unconstitutional. Fighting qualified immunity is a critical part of The Erlich Law Office’s practice.
If you believe you have been the victim of police misconduct, the details of what you experienced are critical. To following questions may help you to prepare for a discussion with us based on your claim:
- How did the encounter with the police begin?
- What police department did the officer work for?
- Did the officer identify him or herself and explain the purpose of the encounter to you?
- What did the officer ask you to do, and what did you do in response?
- Did the officer inform you that you were under arrest?
- Did you resist or take objection with any of the police officer’s actions or commands?
- Did the officer use a weapon during the encounter such as a taser, baton, or pepper spray? If so, was the weapon used in an unnecessarily excessive or violent manner (i.e., the officer intentionally aimed pepper spray at your face at close range, deployed a taser multiple times or for an excessively long duration of time)?
- Is there video or audio of the incident?
- Did the officer’s use of force occur after you had been handcuffed or otherwise subdued?
- Were you injured as a result of the officer’s actions? Did you require medical care, and was medical care offered on the scene?
- Did the officer have a warrant for your arrest?
If you or someone you know was the victim of police misconduct, 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 constitutional lawyer to review the information and determine if your case could be successful.
Our attorneys can help you hold law enforcement officers accountable for instances where they exceed their authority and deprive you of the protections afford to you by law.