What is Excessive Force and When is it Considered Police Misconduct?

man getting arrested on the ground by a police officer.

New York City police and law enforcement officers are in charge of maintaining the law and protecting citizens. In the course of their police duties, the New York City police department is given a wide range of power and authority. With different cases and crimes happening in the City, local people and tourists should feel safe and less afraid when police are present. However, there are times when police officers behave in ways that go against their authority.

The sad truth is, police misconduct lawsuits are prevalent in New York. It’s common to hear and read news about police brutality cases and police misconduct cases. The rights of individuals as well as the foundation of society are significantly threatened when police personnel misuses their authority. As a result, those who formerly trusted the police are now fearful of police presence. If you or a loved one is a victim of NYC police brutality and misconduct, the professional police brutality lawyers of The Pagan Law Firm are here to help.

The Pagan Law Firm is a premier law firm in New York that has fought hard to see the victims of police misconduct receive justice. If New York police officers or other law enforcement violate someone’s rights, our police misconduct attorneys can take legal action and file civil lawsuits against them. With our perseverance, integrity, and diligence, we support individuals who have suffered at the hands of the police. Contact us today if you have experienced police brutality in New York City.

If you are unsure if a police officer has abused their power, the lawyers at The Pagan Law Firm have put together this guide. Read on to learn about when a police officer can use force and how much force is allowed, the reasons a police officer may use excessive force, and everything you need to do if this has happened to you.

When Can Police Officers Use Force During an Arrest?

In general, the use of reasonable force by police officers to arrest someone is often permitted. Force, however, must never be used against a person who is not resisting and must never be used as a kind of extrajudicial punishment or as retaliation. Force becomes essential and is authorized in certain situations, such as while defending oneself or defending another person or group. However, police wouldn’t be justified in using a significant amount of force if a suspect makes a brief attempt to flee, fight back, or pushes the officer.

Reasonable force is only allowed in order for the situation to be handled accordingly and in a safe manner. However, when a suspect has been securely and legally detained, for example, no further use of force is permitted. To offer a better understanding, there are three forms of force that a police officer can use during an arrest – situation permitting. If officers use unwarranted force, they may face significant consequences, including criminal prosecution and civil responsibility.

  1. Low-Level Force

Low-level force is defined as a physical engagement that separates, directs, or controls without using any kind of pain or injury-inflicting tactics. Examples include using hands or other objects such as batons to carefully stop, push back, separate, or accompany someone without causing harm to the other person.

  1. Intermediate Force

Intermediate force — a force that results in complaints of momentary discomfort — is a type of force used in order to carry out the officer’s orders and mandate. For instance, controlled placement or takedown, a strike with enough force that results in a complaint of pain or that causes temporary pain or disorientation, an open-hand technique with enough force to cause pain, or an improper application of handcuffs that results in pain.

  1. Deadly Force

Deadly force is one that results in or is reasonably anticipated to result in severe physical harm, significant actual injury, unconsciousness, or even death. For example, a police strike to manage or restrain a person that can result in fractured bones, a potentially catastrophic head injury, or significant joint dislocation. In addition, loss of consciousness, permanent deformity or loss of function of any organ or body part, and instances in which the suspect is hospitalized as a result of the use of deadly force.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct, contact a lawyer from The Pagan Law Firm today. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

What is Considered Excessive Force?

As mentioned, police personnel are permitted to use force, but only when it is required and necessary. However, the amount of force applied should be adequate and not excessive. When a police officer uses excessive force, it is deemed that they are acting outside of their jurisdiction. The term “excessive force” refers to the use of more force than a police officer would properly consider necessary. In most cases, deadly force is considered to be excessive force. Police officers occasionally use excessive force without even being aware of it; they only become aware of it after the event. These incidents can still be classified as police misconduct since the officer failed to act with an adequate amount of control and judgment.

Police use of excessive force may result in transgressions of federal, state, and civil rights as well as rules set forth by the law enforcement agency. Thus, enacting laws that hold police accountable for using excessive force and other wrongdoings is a crucial part of maintaining system balance. As a result, police officers can be held accountable if they use excessive force during an investigative stop, an arrest, or other seizures. In addition, it’s also possible for a police officer to be held accountable for failing to stop another cop from using excessive force. The jury will decide on the facts of the case, including whether the police officer used more force than he had reason to think was required at the time of the incident.

Reasonable Force vs. Excessive Force

Reasonable force is the least amount of force necessary to control and handle a situation. For police stops and checkpoints, mandating to check identification is considered using reasonable force and power of authority. In different cases, it is reasonable to use physical force, such as by tackling suspects or by deploying a taser, if the situation calls for such action. This situation can occur when suspects not listening or following the officer’s instructions, suspects trying to escape, suspects fighting back, or suspects doing things that are in conflict with the officer’s requests. If the officer made every effort to use less drastic measures before resorting to force, then these actions in and of themselves do not constitute excessive force.

In comparison, excessive force happens when a police officer fails to take the necessary precautions to handle the issue as gently as possible. When an officer uses a taser without first trying to defuse the issue by communicating with the person involved, it may be considered excessive force if it can be proven that the officer did not first explore any other options. Before resorting to physical force and the use of weapons like tasers and batons, officers must always attempt to end a confrontation through verbal communication, before turning to physical involvement. 

Examples of Excessive Force

  • Inflicting unnecessary harm on suspects who supposedly have no intention of retaliating or fleeing.
  • Causing harm to suspects who are in restraint, for example, to get them to keep quiet or stay in place.
  • Not using verbal commands and going straight to physical force such as striking or tackling suspects.
  • Using their tools and weapons in situations that are unnecessary.
  • A police officer conducts a search of your vehicle or home and confiscates items without a warrant or job order.
  • Placing a citizen under false arrest and false imprisonment.
  • Using their authority to engage in theft or fraud.
  • Coercing someone into engaging in sexual activity.

If any of the above scenarios has happened to you, The Pagan Law Firm can help. Call us at 212-967-8202 today.

Reasons a Police Officer May Claim to Have Used Excessive Force

One of the most frequent causes of police misconduct and police brutality cases in New York is the use of excessive force. Police officers have their justifications for using excessive force in certain cases, however. Here are some common reasons why a police officer uses excessive force.

To Protect Themselves

Police officers unquestionably have a very demanding and challenging job that occasionally causes them to fear for their lives. While increased awareness is essential for cops involved in a risky scenario, fear for themselves can impair judgment and result in mistakes that cannot be undone. Instead of seeking to defuse the situation, an officer in fear for their life can use excessive force just to make sure they are safe.

Toxic Surroundings

Some police departments may have a different approach toward suspects in specific environments or areas of the arrest. Since certain neighborhoods are notorious for having aggressive criminal suspects, police officers may initially think that excessive force is necessary to prevent escalations or dangerous situations. As a result, arrests with potentially fatal outcomes are prevalent in some areas. Police officers should continue to be committed to protecting and serving, but all too frequently, prejudices, fears, or the so-called need to use violence show dominance.

Stress at Work in General

The use of excessive force by police can occasionally be brought on by job stress. In tight circumstances, a law enforcement person or agency as a whole may act erratically if they believe that the public is hostile to their work. Stress can impair judgment, which leads to the use of excessive force to control the situation and prevent further escalation. Police officers should, however, be completely capable of doing their duties, and if they are unable to do so, they should not be permitted to work. They shouldn’t allow stress to impair their performance at work because this harms others unnecessarily.

If you believe a police officer has acted unlawfully, it is important to speak with an experienced police misconduct lawyer as soon as possible. Fill out our online contact form today to speak with a seasoned lawyer from The Pagan Law Firm.

What to Do When Your Rights Have Been Violated

It is true that police officers have power and authority, however, law enforcement officials are not above the law. The purpose of civil rights legislation is to strike a balance between the obligation of New York police officers to follow the laws of our country and the right of people to be free from the use of excessive force. If you’ve been a victim of misconduct and you feel that your rights have been violated, you have legal options to defend yourself.

Here are examples of police misconduct that can violate your rights:

  • Police brutality
  • Dishonesty
  • Fraud
  • Use of excessive force
  • Wrongful shooting
  • Coercion
  • Corruption
  • Torture to force confessions
  • Abuse of authority
  • Sexual assault
  • Demanding sexual favors
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Witness tampering
  • Racial profiling

Document Everything

It’s important to document everything that happens when a police officer behaves inappropriately and to maintain your records as proof that you were treated unjustly. The following information has to be noted:

  • Name of the police officer or officers, badge number, and police department of the officers.
  • The name, badge number, and police department of any officers who witnessed the incident.
  • The name and contact information of any people who witnessed the incident.
  • The incident’s date, time, and place.
  • Photos of injuries if there are any.

In addition, other resources, such as police footage and surrounding residences or businesses with cameras and CCTV, may potentially provide more proof.

Get Medical Help if Necessary

It’s crucial to get medical attention as soon as possible if you are hurt. To guarantee your safety and stop any injuries from worsening and becoming too serious to handle, make sure to get medical attention from qualified medical professionals. However, remember to take pictures of your injuries since these will be crucial evidence that the police violated your rights. In addition, make sure to gather and keep all medical bills and expenses as they can be used as proof of your injuries.

Get in Touch With a Police Misconduct Attorney

Contact a reputable and skilled lawyer to assist you in your battle against police misconduct. You can be sure that your legal rights will be safeguarded and that all relevant evidence can be properly preserved while working under the direction of an expert attorney. The top-ranked law firm in New York, The Pagan Law Firm, has a team of competent lawyers who focus on cases concerning police wrongdoing.

Our team of experts will be available to provide you with all of your legal alternatives if a police officer has violated your rights. You may file a lawsuit to protect your rights, undo any damage done to your reputation, and help you obtain any compensation you are due with The Pagan Law Firm and an excellent attorney on your side.

What Compensation Can You Receive?

If you are a victim and have been harmed by police misconduct, you are entitled to financial compensation. Depending on the exact facts and circumstances of the case, the damage award meant to make up for you as a victim of police misconduct will vary substantially. The compensation has been broken down into sections for your convenience in order to provide you with a clearer view.

Compensation for Economic Damages

Compensation for economic damages is to assist the victim in getting back to the exact condition they were in before the police misconduct incident. Economic damages are recompense for monetary losses that can be objectively verified, including actual losses a victim has experienced or will experience as a result of the harm caused by police misconduct. Economic damages may be easily documented and measured, making them often far more tangible.

Economic damages are expenses that the victim has incurred or might incur as a result of the harm caused by police misconduct, including:

  • Past and future medical and hospital expenses
  • Rehabilitation
  • Past and future loss of income
  • Household services
  • Property damages
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Loss of employment or business opportunities

Compensation for Non-Economic Damages

The term “compensation for non-economic damages” refers to compensation for the victim’s subjective, non-financial losses as a result of a police misconduct incident. These damages include:

  • Physical pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Humiliation
  • Reputational damage
  • Worsening of prior injuries
  • Loss of enjoyment of activities
  • Loss of society and companionship,

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are typically given to hold the responsible police officer accountable and discourage other officers from committing similar offenses. If a court awards punitive damages, it is punishing the defendant by requiring them to pay a specified amount of money and provide it to the victim.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Police Misconduct?

For filing a complaint against police violence, there is no one distinct statute of limitations. Instead, a variety of criteria are in place, such as:

  • Type of misconduct: The wrongdoing might involve breaking the law, a department policy that would need an internal inquiry, or committing a breach for which the officer or department might be held civilly accountable.
  • Local Law: If a police officer violates the law due to misconduct, uses excessive force, harasses a person, makes a false arrest, or engages in an illegal search or seizure, New York State or federal courts may hold the officer accountable.
  • Type of legal action: A charge of police misconduct may be made through a civil lawsuit, an internal inquiry, or even a criminal prosecution, each of which has its own prerequisites for commencing.

Your Trusted Police Misconduct Lawyers NYC: Call the Pagan Law Firm Today!

Fighting against police misconduct can be stressful and complex, making it challenging to manage alone. Never forget that you don’t have to fight alone. Instead, you will require the services of an experienced lawyer from a reputable New York law firm.

The Pagan Law Firm is a top-ranked law firm in New York that focuses on matters involving police misconduct. If you or a loved one is a victim of any type of police misconduct, The Pagan Law Firm’s attorneys will devote their time and energy to assisting you in winning your case.

We have helped victims in police misconduct lawsuits all around the New York City area for more than three decades. Our staff is prepared to assist you in navigating the legal system and obtaining the compensation you are entitled to. Our diligent attorneys will see to it that you and your rights are safeguarded, and our tried-and-true techniques and tactics will help you achieve the desired outcomes.

Contact us today and allow our knowledgeable and experienced lawyers to help you win your case and get the compensation you truly deserve.

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