A police officer has just taken you into custody. You haven’t done anything wrong, but he or she is reading your Miranda rights to you while putting you in handcuffs. Has the officer explained the charges? Do they have probable cause for arrest or is it wrongful arrest? What evidence do they have to hold you?
You’re in a shop, or somewhere out in public, and suddenly you’re not free to leave. Someone shouts, “citizens’ arrest!” Maybe there is more than one individual restricting you from leaving. You’ve done nothing wrong, but now you’ve found yourself in an arrest situation, and the police are on their way.
This scenario is typically seen in retail shops where an owner or employee believes that someone has been shoplifting. A citizen can only hold an individual until the police arrive, or to give them an opportunity to recover stolen merchandise from a suspected thief. But again, you know you’ve done nothing wrong and haven’t stolen anything.
What is a wrongful arrest?
Wrongful arrest, also called false arrest, means unlawfully confining an individual against their will by someone who does not have legal authority to do so. If there is no legal cause to hold an individual, such as a warrant for their arrest, suspicion or probable cause, the arrest can be called wrongful if they are not free to leave. While this isn’t hard-and-fast law, it covers a broad range of improper confinements.
Wrongful arrest or false arrest is an intentional tort, and is a civil rights violation. That is, the individual committing the arrest willfully intended to deprive someone of their Fourth Amendment rights, which protects you from illegal searches and seizures. While the police do make mistakes, it may be up to you as the defendant to prove that you were wronged and clear your name in court.
Wrongful arrests happen, even under the best of conditions, and will catch you unaware. Don’t let it ruin your life. What you do next can determine the final outcome, good or bad. In this situation, you should:
- Don’t resist the arrest, particularly one involving a police officer. Resisting an unlawful or wrongful arrest isn’t a good idea, even though it is legal in some places. You can still be charged with resisting arrest, even if you can prove later that the original arrest was unlawful.
- Find a civil rights attorney. Now. The sooner you get legal representation, the faster you can clear your name. He or she can help you avoid mistakes made under difficult, confusing conditions.
- Exercise your right to remain silent. An attorney should be present anytime you speak to authorities. He or she will ensure that you have proper representation, treated fairly, your rights are respected, and guide you through the process.
- Politely decline any searches that don’t come with a warrant. The police are required to follow a set of rules with a warranted search, but without one, there may not be rules.
- Keep track of all correspondence and conversations. Phone calls, emails, letters and other interactions may lead to evidence that proves your innocence.
- Pursue legal action for compensation. Your attorney can advise you on filing a civil rights lawsuit to compensate you for physical pain, mental anguish and embarrassment.
A civil rights attorney can help
A wrongful arrest brands you a criminal, and has far-reaching effects that can damage your good name. An experienced civil rights attorney can examine the facts of your case, determine if you have one, and advise you on the next steps. He or she can determine if you have a good case for wrongful arrest, and what it will take to bring disciplinary action, if the police are involved, or a civil rights lawsuit against individuals.
If you believe you’ve been wrongfully arrested, or that your civil rights have been violated, call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165. Schedule your free consultation with us today. We’ll help you fight back and help you clear your name.
Many police officers exercise restraint when handling members of the general public, but there are times when a situation gets out of control. The law allows the police some flexibility when dealing with or handling an uncooperative individual. Deadly or excessive force can be used if the officer feels he or she is being threatened with it (i.e., a gun pointed in the officer’s direction.) But if physical force is unwarranted, and it’s used anyway, it may be excessive force, and a violation of one’s civil rights. What can you do when you’ve witnessed police using excessive force? The Civil Rights Litigation Group has handled many of these kinds of cases and can help you as well.
Is it excessive force?
The police have qualified immunity involving arrest, so concerns of legal action don’t interfere with their ability to do their jobs. Police are allowed to use reasonable force when handling a combative individual, but only to the point of subduing the person for arrest. Legal protections for citizens are available if force becomes excessive or unreasonable. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 forbids the police to restrict an individual of their civil rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
Excessive force is a general term used when a police officer is aggressive, forceful, and possibly threatens bodily harm when it’s unnecessary. For instance, if someone has cooperated with the police, either at a traffic stop, or during an arrest, (i.e., handcuffed and compliant), physical force or a weapon wouldn’t be necessary to restrain the individual. Continuing to physically subdue the individual after he or she has complied may graduate into the grey area of excessive force, particularly if the end result was severe injury or death.
If you are the victim of excessive force, don’t answer any questions that aren’t required (i.e., like your name.) Don’t speak unless absolutely necessary, such as asking for an attorney. If you have injuries from the police, request medical attention immediately. Don’t yell, become combative, threaten to sue, or say anything else about civil rights. Use your right to remain silent, because what you say really will be used against you later.
Gather evidence and build your case
You will have to prove your case of excessive force with facts and evidence. You need to work quickly, since police may begin erasing evidence and attempting to cover facts.
1. Immediately create a written record of the event. Document everything, including day, time, circumstances, witnesses and anyone who was with you. Don’t worry about formatting—you’re just documenting and organizing everything, and putting together a timeline to establish facts; you can format and summarize when you present it to your attorney. Once you’re in court, you will be required to tell your story, clearly and exactly. Written and coherent documentation of the events will help your case.
2. Gather physical evidence. Pictures, video, a police report or citation, medical records (if required), any damaged property (i.e., torn clothes or damaged shoes) and anything else that’s relevant is evidence.
a. If you were injured, take pictures of your injuries and save them in a safe place (i.e., online photo storage, not just on your phone or hard drive.)
b. Take pictures of any damaged personal property, and put the items away for safe keeping until they are needed.
3. Gather witnesses’ contact information. Witnesses who can verify and validate your story is crucial. An attorney may request a signed witness statement from them detailing what they saw. You need to document these facts as quickly as possible.
4. Take care of yourself first. If you were denied medical care in custody, you’ll need to get it now. If you were charged with a crime, you’ll also need to find a defense attorney and take care of it. Document everything, including time off work, legal fees and other details.
5. Talk to an attorney who specializes in civil rights violations by police. An experienced civil rights attorney can examine your case, help you file the appropriate complaints and work with you through the entire process.
What if I witness police using excessive force against another individual?
If you are a witness to police using excessive force, immediately document what you see, in as much detail as you can. Write down the time, date, place, names if you can get them, and any other relevant details you can remember. If you can take pictures or video, do so, and save them somewhere. Recalling the incident and going over it helps you remember specific details. You may be called upon by an attorney to give testimony later, and a written account will go a long way in proving excessive force.
Protect your civil rights in Denver
An experienced civil rights attorney is essential to handling a case against police. If you’ve been the victim of police excessive force in Denver, contact the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165 today for a free consultation.