Like most government agencies, the police are immune to damages they may cause during their official duties. However, this isn't blanket immunity, and there are situations in which you can sue police officers. For example, most people know that a police officer can be sued for false arrest if he or she lacked probable cause for it. However, this isn't the only situation in which you may have a claim against a police officer. Other cases of misconduct that may attract civil lawsuits include:
Use of Excessive Force
In their line of work, police officers must often use force. For example, a criminal who is trying to escape must be restrained. However, the use of force should just be enough to do the job, and nothing more. If you believe that an officer used excessive force on you, then you may submit a claim against him or her.
Note that "excessive force" is a subjective phrase that may mean different things under different circumstances. Tackling a suspect who is cooperating with his or her arresting officer may be an excessive force, but it may be reasonable for a fleeing suspect. The onus will be on you to prove that the force was excessive.
Failing to Intervene
Suppose a police officer starts beating you upon arrest despite your cooperation. This is clearly a case of unreasonable force that the police authorities aren't supposed to engage in. If there is another police officer on the scene, then he or she has the duty of restraining his or her colleague.
If the second officer witnesses the incident without doing anything, then you may hold him or her liable for your injuries. You will need to prove that he or she:
- The first police officer's conduct violated your constitutional right
- The second officer witnessed or was aware of the violation
- The second officer did not intervene although he or she was in a position to do so
Prosecuting You without Cause
This claim applies when a police officer prosecutes you without any valid reason. Just because you have been found guilty doesn't mean that you were prosecuted maliciously. There are conditions that your claim must meet if it is to be valid; you must show that:
- The officer charged you with a criminal offense
- He or she did not have probable cause for instigating the criminal proceeding
- You won the case
- The officer charged you with the crime maliciously
This is the kind of claim to make if you have personal differences with a police officer and he or she then charges you with a fictitious crime.
For more information, check out a personal injury lawyer in your area.