While the vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their job duties with dignity and provide a critical service to American citizens, police misconduct is not an uncommon occurrence in Texas and throughout the country.
But how can citizens protect themselves when they become victims of excessive force and other forms of police misconduct? If law enforcement used excessive force during your arrest or search and seizures, it is crucial to contact a Temple criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights and hold police officers accountable for their actions.
What is Considered Excessive Force?
Excessive force is a common form of police brutality that refers to situations in which police officers use more force than is necessary when pursuing, searching, or arresting a suspect. Using excessive force is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights.
In the United States, every person has a constitutional right to be free from the excessive force used by police. In addition, the Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, while the Eighth Amendment protects citizens from cruel or unusual punishment.
If you believe that law enforcement used excessive force against you or you were a victim of any other form of police brutality during your arrest, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.
When Can Law Enforcement Use Deadly Force?
Deadly force is a more severe form of excessive force used by law enforcement against a suspect or another person. Deadly force refers to the amount of force that is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death. The use of deadly force by law enforcement is justified and lawful only in rare and extreme circumstances.
The use of deadly force is justified only when a law enforcement officer believes that the suspect poses a substantial danger to the officer or other people. If the officer used deadly force that was not justified under the circumstances, they could be held accountable for causing the suspect’s death or serious bodily injury.
Types of Police Brutality
Excessive force is not the only type of police brutality. The following types of police brutality are considered a violation of a person’s constitutional rights:
The use of excessive force
The use of deadly force
Unnecessary use of force
Unreasonable searches and seizures
Tampering with or falsifying evidence
Misuse of authority
If you have been a victim of these or any other form of police brutality, it is critical that you contact a knowledgeable attorney to protect your rights and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. If police brutality led to your arrest, you need a lawyer who will exclude illegal evidence obtained in an unlawful search and seizure.
What to Do if You Became a Victim of Excessive Force During Your Arrest?
Generally, victims of excessive force and other forms of police brutality have three options:
Internal complaint. If you believe that a police officer used excessive force against you during your arrest, you have a right to file a complaint with the officer’s police department. Your complaint should be reviewed by the department’s internal affairs division. The department may suspend, terminate, or otherwise discipline the officer after the internal investigation is complete.
Criminal complaint. Less than 2% of killings by police result in officers being charged with a crime. However, that does not necessarily mean that you should not file a criminal complaint against the officer that used excessive force and their department. Typically, state and federal prosecutors do not proceed with prosecuting complaints of excessive force unless the circumstances are egregious or the case got widespread media attention.
Civil lawsuit. When a victim of excessive abuse is represented by a skilled lawyer, filing a civil lawsuit against the abusive officer and their department is usually the most effective way to hold officers accountable for police brutality. A knowledgeable attorney can help you recover damages such as medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and others.
If you have been a victim of excessive force during your arrest, it is essential to contact a criminal defense attorney to help you choose the right course of action in your particular case.
Can You Resist Arrest if Law Enforcement Use Excessive Force?
Resisting arrest is not recommended even if law enforcement is using excessive force as it could make things worse. In fact, people who resist arrest may even be charged with a crime (Texas Penal Code § 38.03).
In addition to possible criminal charges, resisting arrest could harm your case if you bring a civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement for using excessive force. Keep in mind that your encounter with the police officer is most likely recorded by the officer’s body camera. The more you resist the arrest, the less likely you are to win your excessive force claim.
Can You Sue the Officer’s Police Department for Using Excessive Force?
In many cases, yes, victims of excessive force and other forms of police brutality have a right to file a lawsuit against both the abusive police officer and their department. It is not uncommon for people who experienced excessive force to file lawsuits against the city, municipality, county, or another government entity operating the police department.
In addition to holding a police department liable for excessive force itself, the victim may also argue that the department:
Failed to conduct adequate background checks when hiring the officer who used excessive force (e.g., the officer was previously arrested for assaulting someone or there were similar incidents of police brutality);
Failed to supervise the officer, especially if he/she had a history of police misconduct;
Failed to properly train the officer before their first day on duty;
Failed to investigate previous complaints of police brutality involving the same officer; and
Failed to discipline the officer for past incidents of police misconduct.
Speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to investigate the use of excessive force by police in your particular case and hold the officer and its police department liable for your damages. Contact The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to get a free case review today. Call (254) 220-4225.