Police Misconduct/Prisoner’s Rights

While police officers are vital to public safety and have great discretion in performance of their duties, there are limits to their powers. Laws, including protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution, prohibit police brutality and excessive force when carrying out those duties. Similarly, the law requires that people who are jailed or imprisoned be provided certain, minimal standards, including humane conditions and access to medical treatment. If your rights have been violated, the attorneys of Cleveland Lehner Cassidy can help you get the justice you deserve.
• Excessive Force and False Arrest
• Malicious Prosecution
• Conditions of Confinement
• Inadequate Medical Treatment and Failure to Protect
• Assault and Battery
• False Arrest/Imprisonment
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Police Misconduct/Prisoner’s Rights Resources

Civil Rights Act of 1871 – “Section 1983”

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 makes it unlawful for the government to deprive any citizen of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or other federal laws, and permits those who have suffered such deprivations to sue the government. This can include suits against the federal, state, and even city and county governments. However, in some instances, certain government actors are completely immune from liability under the law.

The following provides a general overview of what legal rights people have when in the face of government action, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. These laws apply to various government entities differently, and every case is unique. If you feel your civil rights have been violated by the government, you should contact the attorneys of Cleveland Lehner Cassidy to find out if you have a case.

Excessive Force and False Arrest

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people’s reasonable expectations of privacy. It prohibits the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizure of property. This prohibits the government from arresting people without probable cause, meaning that in order for an arrest to be valid, a prudent person would have believed that the person being arrested had committed or was committing a crime. It requires more than mere suspicion, and limits the government’s ability to invade our privacy for any reason or no reason at all.

The Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures includes the use of excessive force to “seize” a person in order to make an arrest. It requires that an officer of the law only use a reasonable amount of force necessary to effectuate the arrest, even if there is probable cause that a crime has been committed or is being committed. A person does not have to suffer physical injuries to show that the amount of force used was unreasonable. A person’s diminished capacity (such as from intoxication or mental condition) is relevant to the amount of force that is reasonable, and can often require use of less restrictive means for physical restraint.

Malicious Prosecution

The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution make it unlawful for the government to knowingly use false evidence to prosecute an individual for a crime. If an officer’s actions cause a person to be subject to false criminal charges and that officer supplied false information during the trial, the government may be liable for the fundamentally unfair criminal proceedings. This can include retaliatory arrests and prosecutions when people are falsely arrested in retaliation for angering an officer, such as for calling the officer a derogatory name. However, the result of the trial is important, as a person can only pursue an action for malicious prosecution if he or she won their case at the trial level.

Conditions of Confinement

The Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution prohibit the government from inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, both as pre-trial detainees and incarcerated persons serving sentences. Conditions of confinement must be reasonably related to a legitimate government goal. The constitution does not allow the denial of basic human needs, such as water, a toilet, and movement.

Inadequate Medical Treatment and Failure to Protect

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution also requires that incarcerated persons receive adequate medical treatment. While incarcerated and subject to the government’s care, prisoners are entitled to receive proper medical treatment, including access to medications to treat chronic conditions and treatment for ailments and injuries. If such medical treatment is denied, the incarcerated individual can sue the government for denial of his or her rights as secured by the Constitution.

It is also unlawful for the government to fail to provide reasonable protections while in police custody or incarcerated. For instance, it is unlawful for a correctional officer to deliberately fail to aid a prisoner being physically harmed, either by another prisoner or by another correctional officer who is using unlawful force.

Tort Law Claims Against the State

Assault and Battery

It is illegal for someone to either make undesired deliberate contact with another (battery), or create the expectation of immediate contact (assault), without a lawful reason. Although police officers have the right in some instances to use force or the threat of force, such as when carrying out a lawful arrest, that right is not without limit. Similar to excessive force claims, when an officer uses more force than is reasonably required under the circumstances, that can constitute unlawful assault and/or battery. In such cases, the government is liable for the actions of its police officer.

False Arrest/Imprisonment

Just as it is unlawful for one person to imprison or detain another person against his or her will, unlawful detention by a police officer constitutes false imprisonment. People are not generally obligated to answer questions when stopped by an officer on the street, and a person’s refusal to answer questions cannot be used as a basis for an officer to detain a person. If the police have no reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime, an unlawful detainment would constitute false imprisonment. Similarly, if you have not been placed under arrest, an officer cannot force you to sit inside his squad car, as that constitutes false imprisonment.
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