Excessive Force Lawsuits in New York

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What Counts as “Excessive Force?”

Like police brutality, excessive force can refer to a wide range of situations. Because of this, you will need to speak with an attorney to understand your legal options and rights. In short, excessive force happens when a law enforcement officer uses unnecessary force to conduct an arrest, often resulting in serious bodily and / or psychological harm.

In short, police should only use the amount of force needed to conduct an arrest – no more. This may include verbal force or physical restraint, but should not exceed the amount of force needed to make the arrest. When a police officer uses too much force, he/she not only risks hurting the victim, but violates his/her civil rights.

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Your Rights and the “Use of Force Continuum”

Most agencies have guidelines for use of force. According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a common use of force continuum is:

  • Officer Presence
  • Non-Physical Force (Verbal)
  • Empty-Hand force
  • Less-Lethal Methods
  • Lethal Force

According to the NIJ, the presence of a law enforcement officer is the best way to resolve a situation. At this point, the officer should not appear threatening but should be professional. In many cases, the presence of a police officer is enough to deter crime. The next best option is non-physical force or verbal force. Verbalization should be non-threatening and professional.

If verbalization is not enough, officers may implement empty-hand control or less-lethal methods to obtain control of an incident. Empty-hand control refers to joint locks, holds, and grabs; less-lethal methods involve the use of a weapon, such as a baton or chemical spray. Law enforcement is only allowed to implement lethal force if the suspect poses a lethal threat to officers or another person.

Bringing an Excessive Force Case to Court

In order to bring a successful case against a police officer, you must overcome “qualified immunity.” This is the most common defense against police brutality and excessive force. With this defense, law enforcement claims immunity from such lawsuit. This means you must be able to show that the actions of the police officer exceeded the bounds of reason.

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If you’ve been affected by police misconduct, such as excessive force, contact a New York civil rights attorney at The Russell Friedman Law Group, LLP today.