As law abiding citizens, it is our duty to co-operate with government officers. At the same time, it is essential to be aware of our rights as well as the rights of police officers.
This can be the difference between life and death in a situation where you have to interact with a law enforcement officer.
Cases of police brutality and wrongful death at the hands of the police can be avoided when both parties conduct themselves in an aware manner. Police brutality, verbal or physical, results in trauma for an individual. Examples of police brutality include police assault, wrongful police shooting, illegal search and seizure, prison abuse, taser injuries, night stick injuries, wrongful death caused by the police, and arresting on trumped up charges. In such cases, you can file police brutality lawsuits and seek justice.
Obviously, the most serious scenario is of a wrongful death at the hands of the police. In certain cases, the officer guilty of an unjustified death can be charged with homicide. In any case, the survivors of the deceased can file a civil lawsuit to prove that the death was avoidable, and it resulted from the willful negligence on part of the police officer. The loved ones and family of the victim can sue for loss of companionship, pain, and suffering, as well as other damages.
It is not easy to prove willful negligence by police officers because the police is often placed in situations where they have to take quick decisions. Wrong decision may result in the loss of a police officer’s life. Convincing the court that the police officer was at fault requires knowledge, experience, and skill. Choose a law firm with these essential attributes before filing a lawsuit.
While cases of wrongful death involving private citizens are usually settled in state courts, those of wrongful death by police may be filed in federal court when there is a case for violation of constitutional rights.
As a rule of thumb, federal courts are not partial. It’s an important consideration to keep in mind. Depending upon the jurisdiction, you may face resistance from the city that will try to defend the police department or have the cooperation of the administration, which will work with you in the interest of justice and to prevent bad publicity for the administration.
Such lawsuits are usually filed against the city of jurisdiction or the police department; these are normally the defendants in such claims. It is possible that your jurisdiction may provide qualified immunity to the accused police officer. A good lawyer will know the limits of such qualified immunity statutes and will prepare your case accordingly. The defendant will try to prove that there was no deliberate and willful violation of established law.
In 2015, the median settlement amount for deadly police shootings was $1.2 million. There is every chance that you may get compensated more in an out-of-court settlement.
As a plaintiff, you may sue in a state court for willful negligence and malice on part of the officer, or in a federal court for violation of civil rights along with negligence.
Your lawyer must be able to deliver to you benefits and advantages that naturally arise from any situation.
For example, you can file federal claims that cite state law if the state-related claims are related to the federal claims.
Under Federal law (42 U.S.C. § 1983), peace officers are liable for injuries to U.S residents that may occur as a result of “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws”.
Excessive force, denial of medical care, and inadequate training can result in wrongful death at the hands of the police.
The scrutiny of a police officer’s conduct under circumstances that may have led to a wrongful death is not easy. The plaintiff needs to accumulate available facts and gather evidence to present a strong case before a jury.
Again, the need for a good lawyer is keenly felt when seeking justice in such cases because federal law demands “clear and convincing evidence” when assessing civil liability. State laws are less stringent and demand only a “preponderance of the evidence”.
Questions that the court will seek answers for include –
• Was the officer’s life in danger?
• Were the officer’s actions commensurate with the training imparted?
• Was the force applied necessary or excessive?
Alex R. Hernandez Jr. is committed to getting justice for victims of wrongful deaths following police action and for victims of police brutality in Texas.
On your part, you must do all you can to ensure that an interaction with the law does not turn confrontational.
On the roads, a police officer can ask you to pull up your vehicle purely on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion”. However, the police cannot search your vehicle without a warrant or probable cause.
Probable cause arises from something that the police may see or smell to suspect an unlawful activity. Provide your driver’s license, insurance papers, and vehicle registration details, if asked.
Beyond this, you are not required to answer any questions. Step out of the vehicle, if asked to. If you wish to record proceedings on your phone or personal device, then you can do so after informing the police officer.
When you’re at home, you have a right to privacy that is strongly protected. Even with probable cause, the police cannot enter your home and search without a warrant or your permission.
If police officers come knocking at your door and fail to produce a warrant, you can ignore them, talk to them through the door, or if you like, ask them to step in.
Awareness of your rights and calm conduct can ensure your safety.
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