What is excessive force during a police encounter?
Law enforcement officers have to deal with a lot of stress and danger as part of their daily job. Many times, stories make it to the media about when officers misjudge a situation and end up putting a person at unnecessary risk through the use of excessive force.
Officers have a duty to the public to use the least amount of force necessary for their own protection and the safety of others. Unfortunately, officers can and do violate the idea of appropriate levels of force when interacting with individuals, which may later give rise to claims against individual officers or entire departments.
Sometimes, officers react with unnecessary aggression and force to normal behaviors or go too far in an attempt to subdue a person they want to arrest. If you experienced what you believe to be excessive force as part of a recent arrest or interaction with law enforcement officers, you may have the right to take legal action.
There is no simple standard when it comes to police force
There are some people who seem to believe that any action that causes them pain or discomfort me constitute excessive force during an arrest. However, the law is vague about what excessive force is and is not. There is plenty of room for interpretation, and all the details matter, including the crime and the supposed threat the individual represented to the public.
The circumstances of the arrest, as well as the environment in which the interaction with law enforcement took place can play an important role in how the public and the courts view the circumstances. Someone arrested because law enforcement officers believed they posed an imminent threat to a group of innocent people, for example, would likely justify a higher degree of force then stopping someone who was fleeing on foot from a traffic stop for a burned-out blinker.
Factors that the courts can and will consider include the crime that police suspected you of, your actions and words leading up to the police becoming physically forceful with you and the results of police force on you.
Demonstrating the injury caused by the force is important
While emotional and mental trauma can result from inappropriate behavior and language on the part of law enforcement, the courts are much more inclined to consider physical injuries serious issues in excessive force cases.
Broken bones, disfigurement and scars, and other serious injuries could all give rise to excessive force claims by those handled roughly by law enforcement. Aggressive driving and other actions intended to cause you injury can also be an issue, even if no one put their hands on you. Talking about the circumstances under which police used force against you with an experienced attorney is a good way to explore your options.