Faced with a difficult and dangerous job, most police officers honorably discharge their duty to protect and serve the public. But unfortunately, some do not. When police officers abuse their power and violate the laws they have sworn to uphold, they must be held accountable.
Police officers who abuse or even kill suspects in the course of arresting them or who abuse prisoners in custody can be held liable for money damages under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code. But there are hurdles to overcome in bringing a police brutality lawsuit. You will have to prove that the officer used unreasonable force under the circumstances. Additionally, in order to recover money damages, you must show that you suffered “actual injuries”— whether physical, emotional, or economic—as a result of the illegal and excessive use of force.
Law enforcement officials also can be held liable for subjecting you to false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. In order to arrest a person, police must have “probable cause” to believe that a crime was committed and that the person arrested committed the crime. You cannot be arrested legally for noncriminal behavior such as inquiring about a loved one’s status in custody, disrespecting an officer, or exercising your free speech rights by wearing a t-shirt that an officer finds offensive.
If there was no probable cause and law enforcement acted maliciously to initiate criminal proceedings anyway, you may be able to bring a malicious prosecution action. In order to bring such a claim in New York, the criminal proceeding must have “terminated in your favor” (for example, if you are acquitted). If you plead guilty, you generally cannot bring a claim for malicious prosecution or for false arrest or imprisonment. The amount of damages to which you may be entitled in a false arrest or imprisonment lawsuit depends on how long you are detained. If you have been maliciously prosecuted, you also may be entitled to recover legal fees that you were forced to pay.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious prosecution, please call us at (212) 685-0999 for a consultation.