The main reason why police brutality incidents are usually so controversial is simple. People always have to ask themselves whether a police officer’s actions were justified based on the circumstances, and this is not always an easy question to answer.
For example, a police officer shooting and killing someone who’s unarmed and not resisting arrest is different than shooting someone who is actively shooting the police or other innocent people.
When the police justifiably shoot armed and dangerous suspects or use any sort of violence or force for that matter, they are acting under what’s called “qualified immunity.”
Qualified immunity is the right to do certain things in the name of enforcing the law, apprehending suspects, and de-escalating situations.
Whenever someone sues the police department, courts are usually faced with the following questions:
- Were the police rightfully exercising qualified immunity?
- Were the police violating any constitutional rights?
In Virginia, activists are trying to change the way qualified immunity works. State Senator Scott Surovell tried for a second time to get a bill passed that would raise the bar on what the police could and couldn’t do while enforcing the law.
“We prohibited chokeholds, shooting at a moving motor vehicle. We created a duty to intervene for using excessive force and we also created some standards for the use of deadly force,” Surovell said.
Surovell’s bill ultimately failed, but it shows how our attitudes and legislation are changing when it comes to police brutality.
If you were the victim of police brutality, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an experienced Virginia police brutality lawyer today. You may be entitled to compensation.
Know your constitutional rights
The police may have qualified immunity, but every citizen has constitutional rights. Under the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, all of us are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. Under the 8th Amendment, we’re protected from cruel and unusual punishment.
Examples of the 4th Amendment being violated are:
- Wrongful arrest
- Wrongful detention
- Police searching a home without a warrant or probable cause
- Police confiscating belongings for no reason and holding on to them
Examples of the 8th Amendment being violated are:
- Excessive use of a weapon
- Using dogs or weapons on a suspect who’s already apprehended and no longer a threat
- Cruel treatment of suspects already in custody. For example, leaving someone in a holding cell in handcuffs without food or water for days.
- Sexual abuse, torture, assault.
Compensation for having these rights violated depends on how severe the courts see the case. For example, a suspect being pushed to the ground isn’t as compelling as a suspect being repeatedly hit in the face with flashlights. A wrongful arrest can yield compensation in the thousands of dollars, while a severe personal injury or wrongful death can result in millions of dollars in compensation.
Do you need help getting compensation for police brutality?
Whether you’re in Richmond, or out in Flat Gap, get in touch with a Virginia police brutality lawyer today.