Police misconduct is a term used to define any illegal actions taken by law enforcement agents against a civilian. Many times, it is a violation of the civil rights established for every citizen in the U.S. Constitution. There are many ways civil rights can be obstructed by law enforcement, so let’s take a look at some of the most common and how they can aid a defendant in court.
When an individual has charges against them, the first thing to consider is the treatment by the law enforcement if they were involved. If an individual thinks that any part of the interaction between them and the law enforcement was out of line, they need to talk with an attorney. The attorney will know the laws inside and out and if there was anything that wasn’t right, they can help. Here are several forms of police misconduct that are easy to recognize:
· Unlawful detention
· False arrest
· Excessive force
· Racial profiling when stopping-and-frisking
· Perjury in court
Although they seem to be straight forward, each of these is very well defined so there can be no confusion. Unlawful detention for example, is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of the citizen. There are three kinds of encounters or situations:
1. Consensual encounters are not detentions, they are initiated by the officer and the suspect is under no obligation to stay. They can leave at any time.
2. Detentions are short encounters during which an officer can question a suspect and search for a weapon. This is often called a stop-and-frisk but can also be a traffic stop. This requires reasonable suspicion that the individual has potentially committed a crime.
3. Arrests are when a law enforcement officer takes a suspect into custody. During an arrest, the police have the right to search the suspect for any evidence of the crime or weapons. Handcuffs are permitted in order to keep an individual from harming the officer during transit to the facility.
A detention is considered unlawful under a few circumstances:
· The detainment was extremely long
· Probable cause was not found
· Excessive force while detained or arrested
· The officer knew the arrest warrant was invalid
In addition to all of these instances, if an officer of the law acts outside of their police training and protocol without reasonable suspicion, it can be considered police misconduct. This is when an attorney is the best person to have on your side.
If you find yourself a victim of police misconduct, there are several things that follow. An attorney will know best the steps you need to take to move forward with getting resolution to the situation. In some cases, a civil rights lawsuit will be the result of the misconduct.
The first thing an individual can do is file a complaint with the police department. It must be as detailed as possible. Close the complaint with a demand for actions against the police officer. If the police department finds the officer guilty of the accusations, there could be a suspension of the officer, termination of his job, repositioning within the department, or formal reprimands brought on the officer.
A misconduct victim is able to file a civil rights lawsuit through Section 1983 of the U.S. Constitution. This claim is used to make sure that the misconduct doesn’t happen to any others by bringing an injunction against the individual. This is so serious that it often leads to the entire police department undergoing an investigation and often results in a reform within the department. This claim also ensures that monetary damages are recuperated for affected individuals.
Bivens' Lawsuit is the same thing as filing a Section 1983 Claim; however it can be brought against any federal actor. This means narcotics officers or FBI agents. It can’t be filed against the DOJ, ICE, or FDIC’s. It simply ensures that monetary damages are recuperated and that the offending officer has some repercussions for his actions. Because of qualified immunity, many times this lawsuit does not get anywhere.
The harshest charge is criminal prosecution against an officer who is charged with police misconduct. This is in rare cases and is used for the most outrageous and obvious misconduct. It is filed after the lawsuit if the evidence is overwhelming.
Although every court trial and criminal charges are unique and particular from another, police misconduct can be a useful tool for a defendant. In some cases, an entire section of evidence may be trashed if the misconduct is present. If the misconduct is grievous enough, the prosecution may drop all the charges entirely. It is best to have an attorney working on your case with you, especially if you suspect police misconduct.