Photograph

Can I Take a Picture of Police Making an Arrest?

Can I take a picture of Police Making an Arrest?

For certain the answer is yes. The issue is what will the police officers do to you once they see you taking the picture, and what remedy you have against the police? There are two separate actions the police can take that may be actionable. If they assault you and/or break your camera. If they can arrest you for something.

If the police assault you, you have a claim for excessive force against the officers.

If the police arrest you, you have a claim for malicious prosecution.

In either instance, you may have a Monell Claim, that the police are failing to train their officers that people can photograph them arresting people.

I would guess the most common claim for these cases is some type of malicious prosecution where the plaintiff is being charged with disorderly conduct and winds up beating the case. The problem is that for a disorderly conduct only, the case is probably not worth much money. However, an Order from a judge directing the police to better train the officers on photographs and a cash award would be a very good outcome.

 

Police Brutality Attorney

What to do if You are Victim of Police Brutality

Violent or abusive encounters with law enforcement officers can be traumatizing. Not only do victims suffer injury at the hands of police officers, but often find themselves arrested and stuck in jail for some time afterward. It is not surprising that these encounters can leave victims upset, in pain, and wanting justice.

The law allows you to file a legal claim against the officer who wrongfully abused you. However, there are some steps you can take to increase the chances of prevailing on your claim and holding the officer responsible.

Seek medical treatment – As soon as you are able, you should go to the emergency department or to your doctor for a full medical evaluation. A timely evaluation will allow a medical professional to document your injuries and connect those injuries with your recent encounter with police. The resulting medical records can be used as evidence to prove the nature, severity, and apparent cause of your injuries in a later police brutality legal claim.

Document your recollections – Violent incidents with law enforcement officers are often emotionally difficult and you may begin to forget or misremember details about the incident. You should write down everything that you remember as soon as possible after the encounter. These notes can later assist you if you need to testify to the events in court.

Collect witness information – If there are any witnesses to the encounter, you should always get their names so your attorney can contact them. Eyewitness testimony is often valuable in police brutality cases, especially if you and the witness did not previously know each other. Additionally, in this technological age, witnesses may have recorded the encounter on their smart phone. Video evidence is extraordinarily helpful since the jury will be able to see exactly what happened without having to rely on witness testimony.

Contact a Philadelphia police brutality attorney as soon as possible

Victims of police brutality can experience significant physical and emotional trauma and may be eligible for significant financial compensation under federal law. While suing the police may seem intimidating, doing so with the assistance of an experienced police brutality attorney can make the process easier. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call The Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340

police brutality case

What makes a good police brutality case?

Potential clients always ask me, “What makes a good police brutality case?” Damages. Good damages makes a good police brutality case.

I have clients all the time tell me about some of the most outrageous police conduct. Then I ask, “what is your worst injury?” The answer to that question that controls how much your case is worth.

I recently had a potential client tell me how the police beat her until she was almost unconscious. They struck her multiple times while she was cuffed, etc. She went to the hospital. I asked her, “what was the single worst injury you suffered?” Her reply, “I had bruises all over my body and the doctor gave me an advil.” That case isn’t so great because there is no way the police officers beat her the way she claimed and she only has those injuries. If the police really hit her that many times, her injuries would be far more severe. In her case, damages can be used to make out liability. Without the injuries, the other side will defend liability based on damages. Not such a great case.

In another case, a potential client told me that he got into an argument with a police officer and the officer hit him one time in the face with a closed fist, then tased him while he was on the ground. The officer arrest him for disorderly conduct, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest. The client was in a coma and had four broken bones. The criminal case was withdrawn by the DAs office. That is a good police brutality case.

What I have written is not the end all be all. There are many situations where my client has no physical injury at all and they have a great cases. We have been very successful on false imprisonment and malicious prosecution cases where there is no physical injury at all. Look at the conduct of the police officer and analyze the result.

Police Brutality FAQ

FAQs Regarding Police Brutality Claims

Q. What is considered to be police brutality?

A. Police brutality occurs when law enforcement officers use unnecessary or excessive force when dealing with a member of the public. Such force may include improper use of a stun gun or taser, unjustified shooting, police dog attacks, intentional assaults and related cover-ups, and more. In addition to unnecessary violence during a police encounter, brutality can also include false arrest, sexual assault, verbal abuse, abuse of prison inmates, or other misconduct.

Q. Who are the most common victims of police brutality?

A. While the media often focuses on racial minorities as victims of police brutality, the reality is that anyone can be a victim. Brutality happens to all races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and more. Even children have been victims of police brutality. This goes to show that there does not have to be racial profiling or prejudice at work for brutality to occur.

Q. What type of case do I have if I am the victim of police brutality?

A. Like other types of personal injury cases, claims for police brutality are filed in civil court. You may file your claim in state court or in federal court under 42 U.S. Code § 1983,1 which provides relief for the violation of your civil rights.

Q. What if my loved one was killed by police or prison guards?

A. If you have tragically lost a loved one due to unlawful and unjustified force by police or prison guards, you have the legal right to recover by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Pennsylvania wrongful death2 laws allow a parent, child, or spouse of a deceased victim to recover for their losses.

Q. What should I do if I believe I have been a victim of police brutality?

A. Like other types of injury-related cases, there are certain steps that you should take to increase your chances of recovery in a legal claim. If possible, you should obtain the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident. Also, you should write down your version of events as soon as possible so you do not forget any important details. Next, take photos of any visible signs of injuries you sustained, such as contusions or lacerations. Make sure to undergo a full medical evaluation as soon as possible so a medical professional can officially document all injuries in your medical records. All of this can serve as evidence to help prove your police brutality claim. Read More.

Finally, you should always contact a Philadelphia attorney who has experience with police brutality and misconduct cases. Taking on a police officer or department in court is not a simple task, and it is important to be represented by a lawyer who understands the legal issues involved in this type of claim. If you or a loved one has been the victims of police brutality, please call The Zeiger Firm at 215-546-0340 for assistance today.

1http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/1983

2http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/231/chapter2200/chap2200toc.html

Qualified Immunity

Qualified Immunity

In my police brutality case, my lawyer tells me I might have a tough case because of qualified immunity. What is qualified immunity and how does it effect my civil rights case?

The police came to my house in the very early morning with a warrant for my brother. My brother has never lived at my house so I have no idea why they had a warrant for my house. In any event, they broke down the front door of my house. They searched everywhere for him. They destroyed a bunch of my property, probably over $10,000 in damage. While they were in my house I asked one of the offers why they were in my house when my brother doesn’t live there and he threw me down a flight of steps and I broke my elbow. I was not arrested. How can I possibly have a tough case? What is qualified immunity?

If you want to sue the officers for coming into your house based on a theory of illegal search and seizure, you have to sue in federal court under 42 USC 1983. When you file the lawsuit, one of the defenses available to police is something called qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a term created by the Supreme Court of the United States, as outlined in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), that basically tells us that if the conduct of the officer does not violate a clearly established constitutional right that a reasonable person would have known about, you can’t sue them. In english, it means that if the police officer was “just doing their job” you can’t sue them.

In your example, you would be suing for a violation of your fourth amendment rights to be free from illegal search and seizure, so you have sued based on a clearly established constitutional right. However, your case is tough because you will have a problem showing that the officer violated that clearly established right. If the affidavit of probable cause for the warrant that was executed was based on a truthful investigation and the judge who signed it actually read it and actually signed it, then the officer was just doing their job when they executed the valid warrant. They probably have qualified immunity for entering your house and destroying the door.

You will most likely be able to recover for the property damage to the house, but $10,000 is probably not what you had in mind when you hired your lawyer.

On another note, when the officer threw you down the steps and you broke a bone in your arm, that act is straight up excessive force and not covered by qualified immunity. Therefore, as to your elbow, you can still have a case.

Note that if you file your case in state court, the defendants can not argue qualified immunity, however, there is no state court cause of action for illegally entering your home with a warrant. You might be able to file a trespass action, but I don’t think it is worth any money. Accordingly, your case in state court would be a common law assault and battery case only.

If the facts of your case really are as you stated above, the best thing to do, is to look at the potential juries and pick based on a trial strategy on the elbow alone because most likely you aren’t going to make a good recovery from the warrant portion of your case.

Naming the Defendant in a Police Brutality Case

Naming the Defendant in a Police Brutality Case

I was assaulted by police officers. They stopped me for no reason. They held me on the scene and I asked them why I was stopped. One of the cops punched me in the face and told me to shut the fuck up. I asked him why he was such a coward that he had to hit me. He then broke my arm by taking me to the ground and stomping me. I told him to go fuck himself. Right after that, another patrol car pulled up with someone who was not a police officer in the back seat. That person was a civilian. She shook her head no when she was looking at me. The officers told me I was free to leave.

I never got the officer’s name who punched me and broke my arm. I want to sue him. How can I do that without knowing his name or badge number? Is naming the defendant in a police brutality case difficult?

You have to file in federal court. In federal court, you file your complaint against John Doe. You have 120 days under FRCP 15 to relate back your initial claim to the day you filed it with the proper names. The lawyers for the city of the police that you sued must provide you with the names of the police offers by the Rule 16 conference. Therefore, you will get the name of the correct officer to sue.

The real problem comes up when you file your complaint at the statute of limitations. In that case, if you do not file your amended complaint within 120 days of the day of your initial complaint, there is no way to fix it, so be sure you get that Rule 16 conference scheduled ASAP.

There is a way to attempt to get the name in state court. Its tricky. I have only been successful at it once. In Pennsylvania state court in naming the defendant in a police brutality case, you simply file a writ of summons against the city or township you are suing and send an interrogatory asking the name of all of the officers who were involved. If they don’t answer, you file a discovery motion to force them to give it to you. Once you get the answer, you file your complaint. Be careful with this approach and make sure you file your writ of summons way before the statute of limitations runs.

Monell Claim

Monell Claim

Does anyone ever win a Monell Claim?

A Monell Claim gives you a cause of action agains the government for failure to train and supervise. These are very hard to win. In our experience, when we have a valid Monell Claim, the defendants fold almost immediately and offer to settle.

A great example of a clear Monell Claim is the case of the Philadelphia narcotics offers charged in federal court. In that case, the officers are accused of doing terrible things to people they arrested from beating them, stealing from them, locking people in trunks of cars, holding people for ransom, tying people to chairs until they gave them money or jewelry, etc. Hundreds of complaints had been made about the officers over a period of time, yet they were still allowed to be on the force. No cameras or video cameras were ever used in their cases. The hire-ups within the police force did little if anything to supervise this group of narcotics officers, and for that matter, all special narcotics officers. Also, the district attorney stopped prosecuting arrests they made, and withdrew prosecution on many previous convicted individuals.

In this case, a Monell Claim is clear. However, how the city defends the matter will unfold in the coming months. The names of the officers are Licardello, Betts, Speiser, Spicer, Reynolds, Norman, and Walker. If any of these officers falsely arrested you, contact us now for a free consultation. Also, if you have a case similar to the narcotics officers’ cases listed above, contact us to discuss how we can help you.

The answer is clear, if you have the right Philadelphia Civil Rights Lawyer fighting for you, yes, you can win a Monell Claim.

Taser Malfunction

Taser Malfunction

When there is a taser malfunction, what happens and what are difference types of taser malfunctions?

A taser malfunction can happen in two ways. First the taser can fail to charge, so the officer believes that he is about to taser someone, but when they fire the taser, there is little or no electricity shooting through the prongs and the person is actually not tased at all. The second type of taser malfunction is when the taser keeps pulsing electricity into the person even though the officer is not trying to keep the electricity flowing through to the person. In this example the person is usually severely injured–even death.

In the second taser malfunction example, there are three possible legal claims unique to taser cases. First is the obvious police brutality or excessive force type of case. In that case, we are arguing the amount of force used is excess of the amount of force a reasonable officer would use faced with a similar amount of force in a similar circumstance.

The next cause of action is a Monell Claim against the city for not having tasers that function properly. The argument is that the city did not follow the proper protocol for managing the tasers before they were given to officers and taken out on the street. The tasers were not properly inspected, maintained, charged, etc., thereby causing the malfunction. The Monell Claim would be that the city failed to train and supervise the the maintenance of the taser inventory.

The third cause of action would be against TASER itself as a company. In this case, you would be arguing more like a products liability case then a civil rights case, but no matter. We would sue TASER for this claim and argue this model of taser was improperly manufactured, designed, etc., and that TASER knew or should have know the likely outcome that someone could get significantly injured as a result of the defect.

Prisoners' Rights

Prisoners’ Rights

If a corrections officer assaults an inmate, can the inmate sue the corrections officer. What are Prisoners’ Rights in these situations?

Prisoners’ rights cases are very difficult to win. However, the standard for excessive force is the same as if it would be against a police officer. Things that our lawyers look for in reviewing a case is whether the inmate was arrested and if so what is the outcome of that case. Next, we look to the injuries. Was the guard injured? If yes, did the guard get any type of medical treatment treat? Where was the injury to his hand or to his face? Was the inmate injured? How severe was the injury?

The analysis is just about the same as a normal police brutality case–was the amount of force used by the officer a reasonable amount of force considering the amount of force the officer was facing? If the force was too great, there is a claim.

Recently in Philadelphia, there was a great example of a prisoners’ rights case. In that example, an officer with a previous accusation of beating an inmate, was caught on tape beating another inmate. In light of recent technology, and that the CFCF (Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility) has a ton of cameras, you would think the officer would be a little smarter than to beat somebody and then have him charged with assaulting the officer.

This is a clear example of a great prisoners’ rights case, especially since it seems like the guard is not getting fired.

Malicious Prosecution

Malicious Prosecution in 42 USC 1983 Cases

What do I have to show to be successful for Malicious Prosecution in 42 USC 1983 Cases?

In these cases, the following elements must all be proved by the Plaintiff: (1) prosecution for a criminal offense; (2) instigated without probable cause; (3) with malice; (4) under a valid warrant, accusation or summons; (5) which has terminated favorably to the plaintiff; and (6) has damaged the plaintiff.

The standard may seem like a heavy burden to prove, but its not. You basically have to beat your criminal case entirely and show that you can real damages as a result of the arrest or prosecution.

An example is where you are on probation for something somewhat serious and you were fully compliant with probation and had no technical or direct violations of your probation. You are arrested for something that you did not do and charged and prosecuted. You were having an argument with an off duty cop over a parking space, and he called his fellow police officers–they arrested you for assaulting them. After the new arrest, the probation officer decides to put a detainer on you because of the new arrest. You are then held in custody on the detainer until the new open case is resolved. You didn’t do anything wrong, so you decide to demand your right to a jury trial. Because you want a jury trial, it takes a year for you to go to trial. You sit in jail for the entire year because of the detainer that was lodged against you because of your arrest. You go to trial and you are found not guilty. The day after the not guilty verdict, you are released from custody.

In the above example, you have a malicious prosecution claim. You were prosecuted for a criminal offense, there was no probable cause, the officer arrested you with malice, it was a real arrest, you won, and you sat in jail for a year.