Experienced Police Brutality & Misconduct Attorneys in Atlanta
Taking on Civil Rights Violations Nationwide
Dealing with a police officer can be a frightening, humiliating, and even deadly experience. However, at no point during a police encounter do you lose the rights afforded to you by our Constitution–such as protection against false arrest or unreasonable, excessive force. If you believe you are a victim of police brutality or misconduct, contact our police brutality and misconduct attorneys in Atlanta. After learning more about what happened, we may be able to help you pursue legal action to recover damages as fair and just compensation for your treatment.
At HDR law, we deal with sensitive and serious civil rights matters, and none may be as serious as how law enforcement treats you. Police officers are given a wide latitude of individual authority and discretion when it comes to the use of force against people they deem as suspects and those in their custody. But that latitude and authority is not absolute and has significant limits.
Common Types Of Police Brutality and Misconduct Claims
Each police brutality or misconduct case is unique. If your situation does not fall into the following categories, but you feel your rights have been violated by a police officer, you should still contact HDR Law.
When people come forward with claims involving police brutality and misconduct, they often involve the following matters:
- Excessive force, including the use of deadly force (shooting cases)
- False arrest
- Injuries caused by the unlawful use of flashbang grenades
- Malicious prosecution
- Unlawful search and seizure
- The unlawful shooting of pets such as dogs
In light of recent events, excessive force and police brutality claims are far more prevalent in the public’s eye.
Unfortunately, there is no clear indicator as to what or how much force is “excessive.” The circumstances in which the force was used most often determine whether or not it is judged as “excessive.” That means a police officer’s use of force in one situation may be considered reasonable, while the same actions in a different situation would not be seen the same way.
Take a police shooting case, for example, which is extremely complex. Suppose the victim of excessive deadly force has a gun. That does not mean that deadly force used against this person was reasonable. Possessing a gun, generally, is not unlawful. A law enforcement officer must do much more than merely state the alleged suspect possessed a firearm. Objective facts must demonstrate that the officer reasonably feared for his/her life or the life of others. An officer cannot negate a set of objective facts, which demonstrate that a well-trained officer would not have used deadly force by simply saying that he/she felt fearful for their respective lives.
Also, the claim is excessive force, not zero force. Thus, where an initial shot of gunfire may have been reasonable, firing multiple bullets thereafter could give rise to the officer being held liable for an excessive force claim after examining complex issues such as causation and joint liability.
The most common claim brought against police officers is false arrest. This is the assertion that law enforcement violated someone’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Unless the officer had probable cause to believe that someone had committed a crime, arresting them may be a civil rights violation.
False arrest is a very complicated area of the law because probable cause need only be “arguable,” and what constitutes “arguable” probable cause is complicated.
Moreover, false arrest claims can also turn into a malicious prosecution claim because false arrest claims are based on arrests without a warrant (‘process of law’). But once a law enforcement official continues to pursue the false arrest by, for example, testifying at a hearing, indictment proceeding, or trial—then you may have both a false arrest claim and malicious prosecution claim, depending on the facts.
Complicating matters even more, with malicious prosecution claims, police officers almost always argue that the warrant issued by a magistrate judge (or grand jury indictment) cuts off the officer’s liability because the probable cause was deemed sufficient by a court or grand jury.
While this argument exists, the reality for law enforcement cases (and legal cases in general) is that everything depends on examining your fact critically, as those facts apply to controlling law. You must have an experienced attorney with a deep understanding of false arrests to represent your case.
In addition, a false arrest claim could also involve a claim against a citizen or resident who, for example, falsified a story to the police, causing them to arrest you.
Failure to Intervene
In less common cases, police officers who are aware of civil rights violations conducted by other officers and do nothing to intervene may be held accountable.
What Is the Qualified Immunity Defense?
Although the laws around qualified immunity may change, the underlying concept of this doctrine is that if the law did not provide an officer with “fair warning” that his/her conduct was unlawful, then that officer cannot be held liable even if otherwise, a constitutional violation occurred.
Qualified immunity cannot be found in our Constitution, nor has our U.S. Congress enacted any law that discusses qualified immunity in any respect. The concept of qualified immunity is judicially created and has operated to deprive thousands of people of any semblance of justice they deserve.
Our judicial system was founded on the idea that a jury must resolve cases in which two seemingly credible, yet opposite, versions of facts exist. Qualified immunity perverts our system by essentially saying, “a jury could find your version of facts correct and thus issue a verdict in your favor, but because an officer was not given fair warning about the type of case your version of facts represent, the officer gets away with otherwise unlawful and morally repugnant conduct.”
There are some basic issues that you must know about if your case involves defeating qualified immunity. These basics go beyond handling your case at the lower court level because almost invariably, if you win a case against a law enforcement officer at the lower court level because the lower court denied qualified immunity, the law provides the officer with a mandatory right to appeal to the higher court for a reversal of your win at the lower court.
Consequently, the case has to be litigated at the lower court level with an eye towards evidence and arguments to ensure the highest possible chance of success on appeal, because while societal pressure has forced a handful of cases to settle, the overwhelming majority of these cases are litigated, and thus a real understanding of the appeals process is essential.
Qualified immunity can be an obstacle to your claim, but it’s not necessarily a dead-end. By working with our experienced attorneys at HDR Law, we can help you build a personalized legal strategy that can increase your chances of successfully holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions.
Contact us for Legal Assistance
If you believe your civil rights were violated by law enforcement, don’t wait any longer. Contact our police brutality and misconduct attorneys in Atlanta for legal assistance. We help clients nationwide hold police officers accountable for violating unalienable rights granted to them by constitutional and statutory laws.