Police took an oath to serve and protect the community. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Police misconduct is extremely common in the United States – and is nothing new. To give you an idea, at least 85,000 police officers have been investigated for misconduct over the past decade. With all of the high-profile cases in recent years, many people are wondering how to sue the police if civil rights are violated.
Police misconduct usually involves civil rights violations. Victims of these violations have rights – and offending officers can be criminally prosecuted. However, it’s important to understand that suing police is usually an uphill battle. Police officers are protected by certain privileges in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
Seeking a settlement from the police department will be nearly impossible without a skilled civil rights attorney. In this post, we discuss some of the most common civil rights violations, your constitutional rights, and what you can do to seek justice.
Common Examples of Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Violations
Civil rights violations come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common ones committed by police officers.
Thousands of people are shot (and killed) by police officers every year. In the United States, African Americans are killed at a rate more than twice as high as Caucasian Americans. Wrongful police shootings are an extremely unsettling reality. The only way to curb these numbers is to hold police officers accountable for their actions.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries from an unjust police shooting, you deserve justice.
Wrongful Search and Seizure
You may remember the NYPD’s infamous Stop-and-Frisk policy. This gave police officers the right to stop, interrogate, and search citizens based on “reasonable suspicion”. The policy resulted in significantly more police interactions – and unfairly targeted minorities. Fortunately, this policy was ruled unconstitutional.
Citizens are protected from wrongful search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment. However, police sometimes overstep their bounds. If you’ve been a victim of an unlawful search and seizure, you have the right to seek justice.
Police may not arrest citizens without legal grounds. But unfortunately, this happens all the time for reasons ranging from unfair profiling to abuse of power. The “innocent until proven guilty” principle is a common aspect of American civil rights. However, it doesn’t always feel this way – as victims of unlawful arrests may end up sitting in jail for weeks – or months.
Unlawful arrests can ruin people’s lives. If you or a loved one was arrested without legal justification, you deserve to get your life back.
The United State’s judicial system is far from perfect. It’s estimated that between 2 and 10 percent of convicted individuals in US prisons are innocent. Wrongful convictions ruin lives and tear families apart – with long prison sentences, large fines, and emotional anguish.
Being convicted for a crime you did not commit is unacceptable – and you have options to push back.
The police in the United States are given a broad scope of power. But no officer is above the law, ever. We are fortunate to live in a time with body cameras and smartphones. In the old days, suing police for brutality usually came down to your word against theirs. Nowadays, video surveillance is more accessible – and holding police accountable is much easier.
Excessive force is an extreme violation of your rights. Any abuse or violent action taken during a stop or detainment may qualify as excessive force. This may include unnecessary physical restraints, blunt force strikes with batons, or shootings when trying to restore safety. Police officers inflicting physical or mental injuries must be held responsible.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment is a big civil rights violation that happens daily – and one of the most common bases of how to sue the police. These actions may be characterized as disciplinary actions too severe for the crime committed. Common examples include (but are not limited to):
- -Inadequate jail conditions
- Tainted food/water
- Unfair sentence proportionality
Sexual abuse is among the most troubling examples of police misconduct. These aggressive acts cause irreparable damage to victims, and there is no excuse. If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a police officer – do not stay silent. You deserve justice for physical and emotional damages.
Police may only pursue a citizen if there is probable cause. These chases commonly result in injuries – and sometimes death. Unfortunately, probable cause is a gray area of the law. If you or a loved one has been injured in a police chase that was initiated without proper cause, you may be entitled to benefits.
You probably read about the killing of Breonna Taylor back in 2020. Her death was the result of a no-knock warrant. This extremely controversial police process may only be used under specific circumstances, as the risk of injury or death is very high in these situations. Citizens deserve protection against unlawful searches of their homes.
Failure to Obtain Medical Care
Those in police custody are entitled to adequate medical care, thanks to the Eighth Amendment. Even with this amendment, the needs of detainees are frequently ignored. This can lead to injury, sickness, and potentially death. Unfair treatment in police custody is a clear civil rights violation – and victims may be eligible for compensation.
What Are Your Rights After Police Misconduct?
The United States has made wonderful progress over the past century in granting civil rights to citizens. On a basic level, Americans are entitled to:
- Freedom of speech, religion, and assembly
- oFreedom from discrimination
- oThe right to procedural due process
- The right to petition the government
Trying to navigate a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer will be nearly impossible. Insurance companies have many tactics and loopholes to avoid compensating victims. A good personal injury attorney will make sure you don’t fall victim to these tricks and fight for the maximum amount.
What Type of Lawyer Do You Need?
Suing police successfully boils down to the attorney you hire. Your best option is to hire a specialized civil rights attorney to manage your claim and fight for fair compensation. The attorney will manage all the legal processes in filing the claim, collecting evidence, building your case, and negotiating for a fair settlement.
It’s important to remember that suing a state for violating constitutional rights without an attorney will be a steep uphill battle. Law enforcement agencies have high-powered legal teams to defend their officers. You need an attorney who knows how to navigate the obstacles within the court system.
How Much Does it Cost to Sue the Police?
If you’re wondering how to sue the police without a loaded bank account, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Believe it or not, suing police shouldn’t cost you a penny out of pocket. Most civil rights attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement. This means they make a percentage of the total settlement paid out of the at-fault party – AFTER they win the case. In other words, every victim of a civil rights violation can afford a good attorney.
What Damages Can You Recoup?
Damages from a civil rights violation can take many different forms. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or death at the hands of police, you may seek compensation for:
- oPain and suffering
- Medical and hospital bills
- Future medical treatment
- oLost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Punitive damages
- oLoss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death
Talk to a civil rights attorney to determine how to sue the police and what you might be entitled to. It could be more than you think!
The Next Step
Knowing how to sue the police department is not always clear. Additionally, it can seem like an impossible mountain to climb. We won’t sugarcoat it; suing police for civil rights violations is no trivial task.
The most important thing you can do is talk to a civil rights attorney to understand your situation.
Midwest Injury Lawyers specializes in civil rights violations in the state of Illinois. We’ll walk you through the process of how to sue the police, create a claim, and fight for the justice you deserve. Even if you don’t have a valid case, we are happy to answer your questions.