Police violence – including the use of excessive force – is a common occurrence in the U.S., causing thousands of injuries and fatalities each year. While many of these incidents go unreported, the vast majority of formal complaints never result in accountability. 

In fact, in a recent analysis of New York State Police (NYSP) misconduct investigations, the NYCLU found that only 7% of use-of-force incidents resulted in a finding of wrongdoing. Even when misconduct was substantiated, most officers received little to no disciplinary action.

While rare, law enforcement officers may face criminal charges for wrongful conduct. However, even if they’re convicted, that doesn’t necessarily mean the victim will receive compensation for their damages. That’s where Section 1983 comes into play.

What Is Section 1983? 

The Constitution guarantees certain rights to individuals in the United States, including the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. If a law enforcement official uses excessive force, they’re depriving a person of their civil rights.

42 U.S. Code § 1983 gives claimants a civil cause of action against officers and potentially their employers for these violations. 

Under this federal law, you must prove: 

  • The defendant was “acting under color of law,” meaning the police officer was acting (or pretending to act) within the scope of their official or governmental authority; and
  • You were deprived of your federal or constitutional rights due to the defendant’s actions.

For example, if a police officer pulls you over for speeding and is wearing an official uniform and shows you their badge, they are acting under color of law. If they drag you from the vehicle, slam you on the pavement, and put you in an unreasonably long chokehold, they’ve likely used excessive force, violating your constitutional rights.

However, every case is incredibly fact-specific. To determine whether a law enforcement officer’s conduct rose to the level of excessive force, courts will examine whether their actions were reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. In other words, would a reasonable officer have used the same level of force in the same situation? If not, it may be deemed excessive and unjustified.

How Can I Prove That a Police Officer Used Excessive Force?

You’ll need evidence, which can be difficult to obtain in a police brutality case – especially without an attorney’s help. 

Your civil rights attorney can locate the evidence needed to prove that the police used excessive force, such as: 

  • Eyewitness statements, photos, and videos
  • Surveillance footage from nearby businesses and structures
  • The officer’s body camera footage
  • Expert witness reports and testimony (e.g., law enforcement specialists, medical experts, etc.)
  • Any history of complaints, misconduct, or violence

Law enforcement officers tend to stick together, and they may attempt to cover up misconduct. That’s why it’s essential to retain legal representation as soon as possible after an excessive use-of-force incident.

What Types of Compensation Can I Receive If I Prove My Civil Police Brutality Case?

You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages if you prove your NYC police brutality claim. 

Economic damages are the financial consequences that arise due to the encounter, such as: 

You may also have a claim for non-economic damages for your personal, intangible losses, such as:  

A New York civil rights lawyer can help you understand the damages that may be available in your police brutality case.

Wrongful Death Damages

If you lost a loved one due to the use of excessive force, you may be entitled to wrongful death damages, such as: 

  • Funeral expenses
  • Burial expenses
  • The cost of medical treatment if your loved one received any
  • Other financial losses sustained prior to death
  • Lost financial support
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Loss of services

These and other damages may be available in a NY wrongful death case stemming from police brutality. It’s essential to seek legal guidance as you work through this challenging process.

A New York City Lawyer Can Help You Prove Your Excessive Force Case

If you or a loved one were harmed due to a law enforcement officer’s use of force, it’s critical to retain an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence can be difficult to obtain, and you have a limited time to act. A New York City police brutality attorney can handle your case and ensure that all procedural requirements are followed.

If you’ve been injured in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007