Police brutality cases can become difficult for plaintiffs and victims in many situations. Departments rarely take the side of the victim over their own officers and prosecutors are reluctant to file criminal cases against the local police. Aside from this lack of consequences from local government officials, civil cases for police brutality do sometimes get dismissed for a number of reasons as well. This is why the services of a lawyer who is a police brutality expert are crucial when attempting to file a lawsuit.
In one example, Seattle Police officers used deadly force on a pregnant woman during a confrontation, but were eventually clearly of any wrongdoing by a law enforcement review board and the related civil lawsuits were also dismissed.
Report of a burglary turns deadly
Police initially responded to a report of a burglary by the victim at her apartment. As they were talking with her to get further details about the incident, her demeanor apparently changed entirely and she pulled a knife. The officers allege that she then began to take stabs at them. When she turned her attention from one officer to the other who was about to be cornered behind a counter in the kitchen, the fatal shots were fired. The victim immediately hit the ground after she was hit. She also had three other young children at home at the time of the incident.
The immediate concern from the victim’s family was about the necessity of deadly force. They knew she had recent mental health issues, but it seemed obvious that two larger police officers could have used other means to subdue a petite pregnant woman who was wielding only a knife. Officers usually have other tools such as pepper spray or tasers that can subdue suspects without causing serious harm in most cases.
The wrongful death and negligence civil lawsuits that were filed against the department were eventually dismissed by a local judge.
The officers were also formally cleared of any wrongdoing by the law enforcement agency board that looked at the circumstances surrounding their use of deadly force.
The appellate process
Even if a case is initially dismissed, there are other options available. Remedies for a dismissal involve appealing rulings to a higher court.
Judges do sometimes make errors. All lawyers have experience in appealing the decisions of judges in lower courts up to higher level appellate courts, especially if a judge makes an error as to an issue of law or determination of fact in their ruling. Depending on the specific type of case there are different standards of review, but needless to say many judges to have their decisions overturned and sent back by higher courts. There are even some judges who get overturned on appeal all the time.
The American legal system is designed to offer at least one level of appeal in most types of cases. In practice this means after the initial lawsuit, if a case is dismissed, this dismissal will also have to be affirmed at least once by a higher court before the case totally does away. If a case is dismissed without prejudice that also means that it can possibly be re-filed at a later time. The rules of appellate procedure in local courts can become confusing, but an experienced lawyer can explain the process to their clients in language that is easy to understand.
Get professional legal help in the Seattle area
If you have been injured by the police or experienced issues with a lawsuit not proceeding as expected, there is help available. Lawyers who handle police brutality cases and have experience filing appeals can provide further information about how to proceed.