Palm Beach County Florida has had a number of excessive use of force cases involving police officers in the last several years. Some of their victims have sustained serious injuries. The West Palm Beach City Commission’s decision to compensate one man for a severe beating that required hospitalization cost local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other victims of local police misconduct can also be compensated with the proper legal help.
Discipline against the Police
In many cases of police brutality, even those involving severe beatings, officers are usually only suspended for short periods of time without pay and keep their jobs. The departments that employ the officers also do little for victims other than give a generic response about investigating the incident. Excessive use of force cases are referred to internal affairs to be investigated by the department, and very few of them result in serious penalties for the officers involved. Criminal charges against police from a local prosecutor are almost unheard of in Florida. Therefore, civil lawsuits are one of the only effective ways for the average person to get back at a police officer who has hurt them.
What Factors Determine if a Victim will Succeed
The legal authority to bring a lawsuit against the police in federal court comes from the Civil Rights Act of 1871. There are relevant sections of this law which state that no one acting under the authority of a police officer or other government official can deprive someone of their civil rights.
When a lawsuit about the police violating a person’s rights and causing injuries comes before a judge, they are usually interested in a few different factors. The first is the nature of the interaction and how the person came into contact with the police. For example, in situations involving perpetrators of violent crimes the police are given immunity to use enough reasonable force to detain the suspect and diffuse the situation. However, in a situation such as issuing a speeding ticket, it would be unreasonable for the officer to pull the driver out of their car and beat them. Another factor is the level of force required to make the area safe. If police are pursuing an active shooter, they may be required to use lethal force to save the lives of others. However, police generally do not need to use any force at all for crimes involving drugs or many other common incidents and misdemeanors. Evidence of injuries that comes in the form of pictures, medical records, and witness testimony can also help build a case against the officer. A well documented injury can help establish proof of unreasonable force. But lawyers for plaintiffs also need to prepare well, as police departments also tend to bring in their own expert witnesses to defend against any accusations by stating that the use of force is within their protocol at certain times. The experts can be very convincing to a jury.
In other words, the best cases for plaintiffs against the police usually involve a high level of force for a situation that does not warrant violence.
Get Help from a Lawyer in Palm Beach County
A conversation with a lawyer who is experienced in civil rights litigation and police misconduct is the best way to determine how to proceed. There are numerous resources available online to help you find the right attorney in Palm Beach County Florida. A lawyer who has won local cases and knows the judges in the county courts will get you the best result