Oklahoma Excessive Force / Police Misconduct Lawyer
If you believe that a police officer used excessive force during the course of an arrest or investigation, that officer may have violated your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. A victim of excessive force or police misconduct may have legal grounds for a lawsuit, either against the arresting officers or the department that employs them. Our team recently recovered a $2 million award for excessive force- schedule your free consultation today to see how we may help you and your family fight back.
A Matter of Civil Law
In most cases, police misconduct is a matter of civil, not criminal, law. Civil claims against a police entity may involve one of two “torts”: negligence or assault and battery.
Negligence forms the basis of most personal injury cases. It’s a legal term, which asserts that if one person’s careless actions result in injury or damage to another, they are legally liable for those damages. Assault and battery is usually a criminal offense, but excessive force by a police officer generally becomes a civil matter, as officers are rarely charged criminally in these scenarios.
Most lawsuits against police officers invoke the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This states that a use of excessive force violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.
What Is Excessive Force?
Excessive force, or police misconduct, can seem like a subjective term. In the eyes of the law, police officers may use whatever force they deem necessary to make a safe arrest or to defend themselves. A jury ultimately decides if a police officer’s conduct was reasonable or excessive, based on what another person would have deemed necessary under the same circumstances.
An arresting officer is allowed to use force when arresting a resisting person, compared to a compliant one. When threatened with great bodily harm or death, officers may also use deadly force. Since these definitions depend heavily on the unique circumstances surrounding each case, the courts rely on a jury’s conclusions in this regard.
The Burden of Proof in Excessive Force Cases
Since these cases are matters of civil law, the burden of proof is much lower. In a criminal case, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, on the other hand, a plaintiff must only prove liability based on a “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, it is more likely than not that the arresting officer used excessive force during an arrest or interaction.
A plaintiff being guilty of the crime they were arrested for is not a valid defense for using excessive force. An officer must provide sufficient evidence that the use of force was necessary to prevent bodily injury or protect public safety.
Your Excessive Force Attorney
As you can see, the law surrounding these types of cases can quickly become complicated. Successfully navigating a police misconduct case requires presenting compelling evidence to a jury, so that they feel it was more likely than not that the police officer used excessive force.
Police officers have a duty to protect the public and use reasonable force in the course of an arrest. If they violate this duty, you may be able to file a lawsuit for damages. To learn more about this process, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.