While police officers in New York are given broad powers to exercise their duties, there are also state and federal laws that protect the rights of citizens in the event of misconduct. In particular, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 provides a check on the authority of those acting under state law.
While officers are granted immunity from lawsuits if they are performing duties, such as questioning suspects, this rule breaks down if they deprive suspects of their rights. Officers may be accused of false arrest, malicious prosecution, the use of excessive force or failure to intervene when another officer is using excessive force.
Officers can arrest anyone if they have probable cause, and warrantless arrests are possible when a felony or misdemeanor offense is committed in their presence. False arrest, or arrest without probable cause, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment preventing unreasonable seizure. If the information leading to an arrest turns out to be inaccurate, the officer is not at fault.
A lack of probable cause as well as proof of malice on the officer’s part is required for a claim of malicious prosecution to be successful. Cases of excessive force can be successful even if the officer had good intentions; however, bad intentions combined with reasonable force do not make for a valid claim.
A victim of police brutality who wishes to file a personal injury claim may want to speak with a lawyer. It could take experts to show that the officer violated the client’s constitutional rights and exceeded reasonable bounds. The lawyer could secure important documents like statements by the police and eyewitnesses. Once evidence has been gathered, legal counsel could then negotiate for a settlement as an alternative to litigation.