Philadelphia Police Brutality Attorney
The Philadelphia Police Brutality Lawyers at The Zeiger Firm understand that when the police use excessive force in doing their job, the police must be held accountable for their actions. Our Philadelphia Police Brutality Attorneys hold arresting officers accountable for their actions. At The Zeiger Firm, our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and NJ Police Brutality Civil Rights lawyers have one goal – to represent every client zealously in order to obtain the best results possible in each case. Because defending the accused is a core practice area of our firm, our Philadelphia Police Brutality Lawyers know how to deal with police officers who violate the public’s trust be using excessive force. We also recognize that, at times, the police who are supposed to protect us, act outside of their authority, often causing serious physical, psychological and emotional injuries, when police brutality occurs. We aggressively fight against police brutality and make sure that our clients are compensated for this conduct.
Police brutality often occurs when the police use excessive force, make improper or illegal arrests, or falsely imprison a person. When police officers use excessive force or make a false arrest, they have violated your civil rights, your state and federal Constitutional rights. You have to right make claims against them under state and federal law. There are different types of claims depending upon what the police did, although many cases are filed under Title 42, Section 1983 of the U.S. Code.
The most frequent police brutality claims allege the use of excessive force/police brutality, false or unlawful arrest, or false imprisonment. An excessive force claim arises when police and other law enforcement agents respond to a situation using more physical force than necessary to control the situation. Often, the police officers used a weapon or unnecessarily beat a person. False arrest claims arise when a police officer arrests someone without having “probable cause” that the person is committing or has committed a crime and that the person being arrested is a responsible party. Finally, a false imprisonment claim arises when police or other law enforcement agents use unauthorized bodily restraint, not necessarily placing them in jail.
At The Zeiger Firm, we have represented clients in State and Federal courts who have been injured by police brutality, and we handle these cases aggressively. Many of these cases require immediate investigation, and we know that prompt action can be the difference between winning and losing these cases. That is why, when you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania attorney to represent you, a family member or friend in a police brutality case, contact The Zeiger Firm, who represent every client zealously in order to obtain the best results possible in each case. To arrange a consultation, please give us a call at 215-546-0340 or send us an email via the form below.
Claims of Excessive Force by Police Officers
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure, which includes protections from unreasonable force used by police officers. In this day and age, excessive force by law enforcement is all too common and serious injuries and fatalities caused by police are regularly in the news. It can be difficult to know when an officer has used excessive force and when you may have the right to take legal action to hold officers accountable for their illegal actions. Our highly experienced police brutality lawyers can examine what happened, advise you of your rights, and guide you through every step of a police brutality claim.
Like anyone else, police officers have the right to defend themselves from acts of violence and physical harm. In addition, they have the right to use reasonable force to apprehend a suspect and to avoid any further risk to the community. However, their right to use force against suspects is far from unlimited
Force by officers is considered unreasonable when that level of force was beyond what was necessary to make an arrest or defend themselves. Even if a suspect actually committed the crime in question, they still should not be subjected to excessive force and injuries during their arrest. If police are not at risk of harm and a suspect is not resisting, officers cannot use force and cause injury to the suspect. If the suspect is resisting or trying to be violent, police can only use the amount of force necessary to protect themselves and the public.
One particularly important matter in recent years is an officer’s ability or inability to use deadly force against a suspect. Deadly force is only lawful under the following circumstances:
- An officer was at risk of great bodily injury or death
- The suspect was trying to flee and the police had probable cause to believe the suspect was a serious threat to the public
If a suspect swings a punch at an officer during an arrest, the officer does not have the right to shoot the suspect because deadly force is disproportionate to the force used by the resisting suspect. In addition, if a suspect is running away after committing a relatively minor or nonviolent crime, the police likely do not have the probable cause needed to use deadly force to stop the suspect.
Just because a police officer uses a taser instead of a gun does not mean that they did not use excessive force. Using a taser is not always justified, especially if a suspect is not actively resisting or is not a danger to themselves or others. Each case involving a taser should be individually examined.
Victims of excessive force by police often suffer serious and life-changing injuries. In addition, being attacked excessively by police can be a highly traumatic experience that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental issues. Not only do victims face extensive costs of treatment but also may suffer permanent disabilities from their injuries. They also experience emotional trauma and other lasting consequences of the illegal force. The law provides such victims with the right to take legal action to hold police officers responsible for their illegal actions.
There are different ways to take action in this situation and our experienced police brutality lawyers can help. If you have been injured due to unreasonable force or if you have lost a loved one due to deadly force by a law enforcement officer, you should not wait to contact The Zeiger Firm to discuss your rights and options.
Your Rights after a False Arrest
Police do not have the unlimited power to detain anyone they want due to the 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable seizure. A detention is considered to be a seizure of your person and there are certain requirements for a detention to be lawful. For example, in order to make an arrest, police must have probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime and in most cases, must have a warrant. Arrest warrants require that police demonstrate probable cause before they are given authority to make an arrest.
Probable cause involves having a reasonable basis on which to believe that someone has committed a crime. This involves more than just a hunch or a whim – instead, an officer must be able to present a concrete reason to connect a suspect to an offense. If a warrant is not supported by sufficient probable cause, any subsequent arrest based on that warrant can be deemed unlawful. In addition, if a warrant was found to be based on false information, the warrant is invalid and arrests based on that warrant constitute false arrests.
In some cases, a warrant is not needed to arrest someone. These cases must involve an exigent circumstance that creates the need for an arrest immediately without first taking the time to obtain an arrest warrant. Such exigent circumstances include:
- The risk of a suspect’s imminent escape
- The suspect presents an imminent danger to others
- There is the risk of imminent destruction of evidence of a crime
If an officer cannot show that an exigent circumstance existed, any warrantless arrest is unlawful. Shortly after a warrantless arrest, an arrestee has the right to go before the court so the judge can determine whether probable cause existed and whether the arrest was lawful.
Unlawful arrests can have many consequences for a victim and can cause the following harm and losses:
- Lost income if you missed work while you were detained
- Damage to your reputation
- Physical harm if force was used
- Mental and emotional trauma and embarrassment
Furthermore, if a false arrest leads to criminal charges and/or conviction, you may also be able to take legal action for malicious prosecution and wrongful conviction. If you have been falsely arrested, it is critical that you seek help from a lawyer who can both help you defend against any wrongful charges and help you seek compensation for any violations of your constitutional rights.
At The Zeiger Firm, we do everything in our power to protect the rights of our clients and to obtain relief for them if their rights have been violated. If you have been wrongfully arrested and accused of a crime, we will present all possible legal defenses and evidence to prove the prosecutor wrong. We will aggressively defend you at trial to fight against false charges. We can then file a claim for false arrest and represent you throughout that case, as well. Call our office as soon as possible if you have been arrested.
Other Forms of False Imprisonment
False arrest is only one form of false imprisonment that may be committed by police officers. IN other situations, an officer may not formally arrest a citizen but may instead detain them in other ways without probable cause or legal justification. For example, an officer may lock someone in their police car or shut them in a room and not allow them to leave, even though they have no probable cause to make an arrest. An officer may restrain a person physically or by making threats or intimidations and the victim may not be able to leave for several hours.
False imprisonment can cause physical and mental injuries. Such civil rights violations can have many effects and victims may have the right to seek compensation for their losses. The Zeiger Firm will evaluate the actions of police officers to determine whether your rights have been violated.
Your Rights to Resist Police Brutality
Your rights to self-defense apply to unlawful assaults by police. If an officer is using or threatening unjustified violence against you, you have the right to use reasonable force to defend yourself when necessary to prevent serious harm. However, if an officer is falsely arresting you but not using violence, you do not have the right to use force to resist the arrest. Instead, you will need to present your claims of wrongful arrest to the court after your arrest and pursue a release through the justice system. In either situation, you need the right law firm on your side that knows how to handle these complex police brutality cases.
If you used force against police to protect yourself from harm, presenting a self-defense claim can be complicated. Attorney Brian Zeiger understands how to present claims of self-defense in both criminal cases and any civil rights claims you may bring due to harm caused by police misconduct.
Police Brutality in the United States
We expect law enforcement in the U.S. to protect the public and keep us safe. You should be able to trust that an officer will not overstep their role or abuse their power by using excessive force, making false arrests, or committing any other type of police brutality. Unfortunately, police engage in misconduct on a regular basis that results in harm and violates the rights of individuals.
Many factors can lead to police brutality, including:
- Inadequate training and education regarding the limits of police power under the law
- Inability to control their actions or errors in judgment in times of high adrenaline, such as high-speed chases
- Vigilantism, in which an officer believes the justice system is inadequate and they must take the law and punishment into their own hands
- Racism or bigotry that leads to violence against members of certain protected groups
- Solidarity among police officers in which they fail to report or even cover up misconduct by fellow officers
- A lack of internal police investigations and discipline regarding misconduct
In recent years, many cases have arisen in which a police officer claims they saw a brutality victim reach for a gun and so they used deadly force. In reality, many of these victims turned out to be unarmed and the deaths led to widespread unrest in the communities. While protests and other forms of activism may work to reduce future harm caused by police, they do little to compensate victims of violence or families that have lost loved ones due to wrongful deadly force by police. Even if an officer is charged and convicted of assault or homicide – which is rare – the penalties for the crime will likely not address the harm suffered by victims. For this reason, the law provides victims of police brutality with other avenues to seek legal relief.
Knowing the right way to hold police officers accountable for their illegal actions and civil rights violations can be challenging. Both state and federal laws protect government actors from legal claims under many circumstances and you can be certain that an officer and police department will try to assert such protections. However, with the right legal representation, you can fight to prove you deserve to hold officers liable and obtain compensation for your losses.
Losses Caused by Police Brutality
Police brutality takes a significant toll on the community. First, an increase in police violence may make people afraid to call 911 if they are in trouble or report possible criminal activity. They may believe that any interaction with the police is risky and may result in injury or even death. This is especially the case for people of color but can be true of any citizen who may be uneasy around police.
In addition to the consequences in the community, victims of police brutality can face serious and lasting losses as a result of the misconduct. While some losses are financial, others are intangible. Our attorneys can identify all possible losses in your case and prove the amount of compensation you deserve for the harm you suffered. The following are some examples of damages in police brutality cases:
Medical expenses – Many excessive force incidents result in serious injuries to victims that require medical attention and treatment. Emergency care, hospitalization, and additional treatment can result in extensive medical bills.
Permanent injuries – Some police violence can cause injuries so severe that a victim has permanent impairments and disabilities. This is common with blunt force trauma or gunshots to the head or spine but can happen with any type of excessive force.
Lost income – Injuries can prevent people from working for a period of time, which can lead to lost wages. In addition, if a person is falsely arrested and charged, they could spend weeks or months behind bars and will likely lose their jobs.
Emotional distress – Many incidents of police brutality can be emotionally scarring and can leave a victim feeling traumatized. Victims can seek compensation for emotional distress if they can show the following:
- The law enforcement officer engaged in extreme and outrageous behavior
- The officer’s behavior was either reckless or intentional
- The behavior caused serious emotional distress
Emotional distress can result from either physical or emotional assaults. These damages can be difficult to quantify and you need an experienced police brutality attorney to ensure all damages are accounted for in your case.
Filing Your Police Brutality Claim
Once your attorney has identified that your rights have been violated by police misconduct, you have different options for filing legal claims. For example, you can file an intentional tort claim for assault and battery in state court or you can file a claim in federal court under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which is referred to as a Section 1983 claim.
In either case, the officer’s defense lawyer will certainly try to claim that the officer is immune from legal liability under sovereign immunity laws. These laws make government actors immune from lawsuits under most circumstances. Immunity is important because it allows law enforcement officers to perform their jobs without the constant fear of facing legal claims. However, qualified immunity generally does not apply to cases in which an officer violated your constitutional or statutory rights. This is true in police misconduct and brutality cases and your attorney can fight to demonstrate why immunity should not apply in your case.
To prevail in a state of federal police brutality claim, you must provide sufficient proof that an officer violated your rights. In excessive force cases, this involves proving that the force used by the officer was disproportionate to any threats of harm the officer felt or force that you used in resisting. In some cases, police may claim that you were resisting when you were not and you must provide evidence of your cooperation. You also must prove that you suffered injury or other damages due to the officer’s conduct.
Many types of evidence can be used to prove a police brutality claim, including:
- Witness statements
- Dashboard camera footage
- Cell phone videos
- Police statements and reports
- Medical records showing a diagnosis of your injuries
- Photographs of your injuries
- An officer’s previous history of brutality and other misconduct
- Other records and documents
All of this evidence must be carefully collected and presented to prove your claims while following all rules and procedures of the particular court in which you filed your case. The evidence must prove your claims by a preponderance of the evidence, which means you must show that it was more likely than not that the officer violated your civil rights with their misconduct and that you deserve to recover for your losses. While this is a lower standard than in criminal court, it is essential that you are represented by a law firm that knows how to sufficiently prove a police brutality claim.
Our Law Firm Can Help
At The Zeiger Firm, we know that while police brutality cases and criminal cases are often intertwined, the legal process is very different in each type of case. First, the procedural rules are substantially different in civil court than in criminal court. The burden of proof is different, as is the type of evidence that may be admissible.
People who have suffered injuries due to police brutality often have a criminal case pending, as well. Our skilled legal team can handle all aspects of both cases so that you do not have to contact different attorneys to handle your criminal case and civil rights claim. We will evaluate your situation and if your rights have been violated, we will guide you through every aspect of the legal process. We will also defend against wrongful criminal charges and use any civil rights violations to your advantage in your criminal case whenever possible.
Contact a Philadelphia Police Brutality Attorney Today
Being assaulted or falsely arrested by police is a traumatizing experience that can completely change your outlook on law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, The Zeiger Firm has seen firsthand just how seriously police misconduct can affect our clients and their families. Whether you suffered unnecessary injuries during an arrest, were arrested without a warrant or probable cause, or have lost a loved one due to illegal deadly force by police, our Philadelphia police brutality lawyers are ready to help.
When your 4th Amendment rights are violated, our legal team will stand up for your rights to legal relief. We believe that police officers who abuse their power should be held fully liable for any harm they cause. If you were injured or mistreated by police, please contact The Zeiger Firm to discuss your options today. We are committed to our clients so call today at 215-546-0340 for a free case evaluation.