Almost all legal claims have a statute of limitations. This means that a person must file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time after an incident happened to be able to make a valid claim. This is due to the fact that this time limit is written into most laws. If the victim waits too long, they are out of luck and can no longer bring the action.
The statute of limitations changes based on the specific action the plaintiff is filing and the jurisdiction where everything happened. Police brutality cases are mostly filed under the same federal civil rights laws, but state law claims can be made as well depending on the specific incident.
In most civil cases, the person affected generally has a few years before their claim would be barred by the statute of limitations in their jurisdiction. In criminal cases, the government must also file their criminal charges against a suspect within a few years of the crime to prosecute someone for most types of illegal behavior. As a general rule, anyone who was injured by the police, and is serious about bringing a lawsuit should try to do so within a year or less to prevent the possibility of waiting too long. There are a few states in the U.S. that do have a one year statute of limitations on certain types of injury claims.
Various tort law claims such as false imprisonment, battery, and wrongful death can be brought against the police and local government for misconduct by law enforcement. However, the federal civil rights law that is used for most police brutality claims is Section 1983 of Chapter 42 of the United States Code. This essentially says that a government employee cannot use their authority to deprive a person of their civil rights. This law does not have a specific statute of limitations written into it. That means the state where the case is brought will generally use their own tort law statute of limitations for actions such as negligence and wrongful death. Most of these causes of action have a period of between two and seven years after the incident happened where a lawsuit can be brought. However, keep in mind that each state has its own set of laws and these time limits can vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Because there are a number of variables related to police brutality claims that can be brought under either local or federal laws, it is always recommended to get advice from a police brutality lawyer as soon as possible after an incident. Even if your case goes on for a long time, the time limit in the statute of limitations will essentially stop running once the lawsuit is initially filed. This means that it is helpful to have a consultation and start the process sooner rather than later. The lawyer can outline some other basic information that is relevant to your particular case, as well as provide the exact statute of limitations.
Start the process to file a lawsuit now
There are several attorneys around the country who can help you file a police brutality claim before it is too late. Use the directory on USAttorneys.com to find a legal professional and get started as soon as possible.