16th Feb 2016

What are My Rights if the Police Use Excessive Force?

In today’s society police tactics and behavior are coming under scrutiny more than ever. Law enforcement officers who use excessive force against a suspect are finding their names and actions exposed online and through traditional media outlets: some are facing legal repercussions from their actions.

There remains, however, a great deal of misinformation about what legal rights an individual in South Florida may have when the police behave badly.

(1)   It is not a guaranty that your criminal case is likely to be dismissed

Having police “rough you up” or arrest you for a crime you did not commit is not likely going to get your case dismissed right away. So long as the police had “probable cause” (a legal standard) to arrest you, criminal proceedings can be initiated against you and you can be required to stand trial. In a similar vein, while having police use excessive force against you means you may have a civil rights claim or other lawsuit against the officer and/or the department, it does not mean that the prosecutor or court must dismiss your case.

(2)  Civil Cases Against Police Officers and Departments are Difficult to Win.

This is because police officers enjoy certain legal immunities when they are carrying out their duties. Even careless conduct on the part of the police officer is not enough to win a case against an officer or department. In most cases you must show that the officer went beyond his or her authority in deliberately causing you harm or violating your rights. To win a claim of malicious prosecution, you must not only win your criminal case but you must also prove the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you and initiate criminal proceedings against you.

(3)    A Police Officer’s Prior Bad Conduct is Relevant to Your Case

Although a police officer’s excessive force is not necessarily going to result in a dismissal of the case, an officer’s prior bad acts can be used by a skilled criminal defense attorney to cast doubt on the officer’s actions and your charges. For example, an officer who has previously been investigated or disciplined for falsifying reports or exaggerating the facts of a particular arrest (claiming, for example, that a suspect was “resisting arrest” when in fact the suspect was in the process of complying with the officer’s commands) can be asked about these facts and circumstances at your trial. An officer’s previous bad conduct can cause a judge or jury to question the officer’s testimony and conclusions in your own case.

In Miami-Dade and Broward County, I have successfully handled many cases where police misconduct can be established. Civilians, acting as jurors, are often greatly affected by established police misconduct which may result in favorable verdicts for the victim of such misconduct. Skilled South Florida criminal defense attorney like Scott Saul will place a client in the best possible position in order to secure a dismissal or acquittal

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