Being the victim of police brutality can be very scarring, both emotionally and physically. The more an officer violates the rights of a person, the more reason this person has to pursue legal action. Depending on how much evidence a person has, and how much of the law was transgressed, a police officer can get into some pretty hot water with the Supreme Court and they can face imprisonment and loss of their job as well. When it comes to cracking down on the officer who violated the law, a person can choose between going through a civil lawsuit or letting the state pursue criminal charges.

What is the difference between a civil case and a criminal case?

A civil case is basically when an individual gets a dedicated lawyer to represent them and they lay charges against the police officer, who in this case would then become the defendant. In criminal cases, however, the system is quite different. The prosecutor is actually the state and the defendant (who is still the officer) is allowed to have a lawyer to represent them for their case. In criminal cases, it is up to the District Attorney to decide whether they will prosecute or not.

In most situations though, the District Attorney does not lay criminal charges against police officers for using excessive force while on the job, especially in Texas. They may, however, lay criminal charges on police officers who were committing crimes, such as sexual assault or drug trafficking while they were not on duty. Since the District Attorney depends highly on police officers for investigating crimes and being reliable witnesses, it is often very difficult for them to prosecute these same officers. This is partially why criminal cases for police officers are rare.

Some key differences between civil and criminal cases are:

  • Criminal cases generally have more severe penalties
  • Criminal cases require more evidence
  • In criminal cases, the defendant can have an attorney
  • Criminal cases nearly always allow for trial by jury

The use of excessive force by a police officer is considered a federal crime and therefore can be investigated by the FBI and then followed through with a civil lawsuit. If this occurs, it is called a federal civil lawsuit and this form of a lawsuit is generally very effective. However, similar to the state, the FBI generally are not very open to taking police cases unless the behavior of the police officer was extremely unacceptable.

Getting a lawyer can turn the tables

The best chance a person has to get a fair trial and have their voice heard is by getting in touch with a police brutality lawyer in Marshall, TX, and going through a civil lawsuit. In many cases, a crime which a police officer commits can be taken to court both through a civil and a criminal lawsuit.  An experienced lawyer can help a person decide which method of litigation is best for them and can show them how they should go about trying to get compensated for the pain which they experienced at the hands of the police officer in question.