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.

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.

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.