Phillips & Associates

Excessive Force

New York City Attorneys Holding Police Accountable for Misconduct

We trust law enforcement to protect us and not harm us. However, police brutality is not as unusual as some think. Excessive force by law enforcement can result in serious injuries or even death. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights lawyers can help New York City residents pursue lawsuits based on police misconduct, such as excessive force.

Excessive Force

Excessive force entails using more force than reasonably necessary under the circumstances to conduct an investigation or make an arrest. The standard for determining whether excessive force was used is the amount of force that a reasonable police officer would have used under the same circumstances.

The use of excessive force can be a violation of a person's civil or Constitutional rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides the method by which someone can bring a claim for compensation against a party that has deprived him or her of Constitutional rights, immunities, and privileges under color of state law. Under § 1983, an excessive force claim can be brought in federal or state court, but most often these cases are decided in federal court.

Often, § 1983 excessive force claims originate in a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The court must balance the nature and quality of the Fourth Amendment intrusion against the importance of the governmental interests that are used to justify the intrusion. This means that, while an officer may be justified in using force if a suspect threatens or resists him or her, the force used needs to be reasonably related to the quality and force of the suspect's threat.

In addition to suing a police officer who uses excessive force, you can potentially also sue any other law enforcement officials who could have intervened to protect your right to be free from excessive force. Any officer who fails to intervene when witnessing excessive force by another officer may be liable for any preventable injuries.

In order to prevail against officers for failure to intervene in an excessive force case, you must be able to prove that they had the realistic opportunity of intervening to preventing the harm. You must also be able to show that the failure to intervene allowed the officer using excessive force to violate your clearly established statutory or Constitutional rights, and that the circumstances were such that it would be objectively unreasonable to believe no violation of civil rights was occurring.

When accused of excessive force, many police officers rely on the defense of qualified immunity. This defense shields police officers performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional or statutory rights of which a reasonable person would know. Police are immune from suit for their job performance unless they act unreasonably and willfully. It can be challenging to prove unreasonable, willful conduct without the help of an experienced civil rights lawyer.

Consult a New York City Lawyer for Your Civil Rights Claims

If you are a victim of excessive force in New York City, you may want to seek guidance from a civil rights attorney. In many cases, police officers rally behind an officer who used excessive force and back his or her version of events. It is important to act quickly to protect your rights. At Phillips & Associates, we offer experienced representation for those whose rights have been infringed in all five boroughs of New York City, including Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or by completing our online form.

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