What Constitutes Police Misconduct?
One of the most important civil rights under strain today are protection against police brutality. Individuals who have experienced any kind of police misconduct, brutality, or excessive force have the right to file a lawsuit based on a violation of their civil rights.
Note that police misconduct involves unlawful behavior against a civilian, and this can be in the form of unlawful detention, false arrest, racial profiling, or excessive force. More specifically, some of the most important civil rights that are violated by police misconduct are:
- protection against unreasonable search and seizure;
- right to privacy;
- freedom of speech;
- protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
In such situations, a person may pursue criminal prosecution of the offending police officer or a civil rights lawsuit entailing monetary damages.
Filing a Civil Rights Lawsuit
Under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, victims of police misconduct may file a civil rights lawsuit that could include remedies in the form of an injunction (court order designed to prevent the misconduct from reoccurring) or monetary damages. Injunctions may spur a review of the internal affairs of the police department and potentially fire offending officers. Monetary damages could include damages to compensate the victim for their losses, punitive damages to penalize the offending officer, and presumed damages to cover for a victim’s violated rights.
Note that a successful lawsuit for monetary damages requires that it overcomes qualified immunity, which is a defense available to police officers and protects them from having to pay such damages from a lawsuit if they prove that they did not violate a person’s constitutional rights or, if they did, the right was not clearly established.
A civil rights lawsuit can be filed against any state or local officials, such as the offending officer, their associated police department, or even the town or county in which the incident occurred.