Individuals are protected from police misconduct through protections outlined in the Fourth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The Act was originally passed in order to protect the rights of individuals against police brutality. Part of the law makes it unlawful for someone who is working with state law enforcement agencies to deprive individuals of the rights they are afforded in the Constitution. The most common claims brought up against officers include:
- False arrest or imprisonment
- Malicious prosecution
- Use of excessive or unreasonable force
Cases of False Arrest
The most common claim against the police is false arrest. In most cases, individuals claim that police violated their Fourth Amendment right when it comes to unreasonable seizures. However, if the officer had probable cause and believed that the individual committed the crime, the arrest is not in violation of the Fourth Amendment. If a misdemeanor or a felony offense is committed in their presence they do not need a warrant to make an arrest. A victim has to show that an officer lacked probable cause to prove it was a false arrest.
Cases of Malicious Prosecutions
When someone makes a claim of malicious prosecution, they are stating that the officer deprived them of the right to liberty as provided in the Fourth Amendment. The victim will have to show 4 things in order to win this case:
- The officer commenced a criminal proceeding
- The proceeding ended with no conviction
- There was not probably cause
- The proceeding was pursued with malice toward the victim
Cases of Excessive Force
Cases of excessive force are the most publicized cases partially because they frequently end in death or serious physical injury of a victim. Whether or not an officer used excessive force can depend largely on the facts and the circumstances. It does not regard the motivation or intention of the officer. If the force was reasonable for the circumstances, it won’t matter if the intentions of the officer were bad. However, the reverse is true as well. If the officer had nothing but good intentions but engaged in an unreasonable amount of force, excessive force can be claimed.