The United States constitution specifically, under the fourth amendment, governs a police officer’s conduct when effectuating a search and seizure. Basically, the fourth amendment states that we, as citizens, have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The courts have held that during the course of an arrest, a police officer can only use that force which is necessary to actually effectuate the arrest.
I have represented many citizens who have been injured in the course of being arrested by a police officer. So therefore even though a police officer does have reason or as we say probable cause to arrest somebody, they can only use that force only necessary to put that person under their custody.
There are common scenarios where injury may happen. The first scenario is if someone’s been arrested and they are handcuffed too physically, for example the cuffs are too tight or the officers wrenches the person’s arms behind them to get them into handcuffed position. They may sustain injuries to their wrist, their elbow or their shoulder such as a torn rotate cuff injury. These are very common scenarios where a person may get injured. The person who is injured may have a per-existing problem that predisposes them to being injured.
The second type of scenario is actually a police beating. For example, I had a case where a teenager was running from the police with the vehicle, and they were chasing him and when he finally got too scared and pulled over. He exited the car, kneeled down and put his hands behind his back. Once he was cuffed he was literally beat to a pulp by the police department. Obviously this was too much force; the courts found it was excessive force. Even though he was fleeing and looting and the police department had a perfect right to arrest him, it could only cuff him and use that force necessary, they could not beat him.
The third type of scenario commonly we see are police shootings. When a police pulls a pistol or a rifle they are basically using deadly force. Deadly force is justified, the courts say, when the officer feels that his life is in peril or another citizen’s life is in peril. At that time they can use deadly force, but not before. The unique thing about police brutality or excessive force claims is not only can you be compensated for your injuries, your time off of work, your medical expenses, but the police department may be responsible for your attorney’s fees and for punitive damages which are punishment damages. No other law in Michigan has this. It’s actually a federal law, but no other Michigan state law has punitive damages. It’s really a unique form of recovery.
If you have questions on this or any other type of personal injury claim, you may feel free to call me at (248) 290-5600 for a free consultation.