Police officers are entrusted to enforce the law and stop or detain suspects as necessary. When a law enforcement official attempts to search you or asks you to stop, you should always obey. However, cops aren’t above the law, and police misconduct is considered a serious crime in Arizona. This type of behavior can include planting evidence on someone or unlawful search and seizure.
Depending on the circumstances, you will file a complaint with the federal Department of Justice or law enforcement department in the relevant location. If you believe you’ve been subjected to police misconduct, you might choose to file a lawsuit to try to recover compensation. Keep in mind that it’s best to seek advice from an attorney before submitting a complaint or seeking legal action on your own.
Understanding Police Misconduct in Arizona
- Police officers have immunity from lawsuits unless they violate specific laws or individual rights
- Police misconduct can include civil rights violations, sexual assault, false arrest, and more
- If your civil rights were violated by law enforcement, you should make a report with the FBI in your location
- Successfully filing a lawsuit against a law enforcement officer is very challenging, so working with an experienced attorney is essential
Police officers have “qualified immunity,” meaning that they are protected from recourse (including lawsuits) under the condition that they’re performing their job correctly, unless their actions violate certain individual rights. They can only be subjected to a lawsuit if they demonstrate willful, unreasonable actions (not including failure to exercise good care). In other words, a suspect won’t be able to sue the police after a typical encounter with an officer.
Examples of Police Misconduct
When a police officer violates your rights, you may pursue recourse through state and federal laws. Civil rights laws exist to protect American citizens from police misconduct and other abuse by the government. You can file a suit against a police officer for negligently or intentionally inflicting injury through excessive force (also called police brutality), abusing a detained individual, entering a residence without the necessary warrant, and violating policies of their department.
Police misconduct can also include verbal abuse, false arrest, abuse of inmates, an unjustified shooting or unjustified use of a taser or stun gun, and police dog attacks. If you were arrested after the incident with the police officer, consulting with a lawyer is a must. But even if you weren’t charged with a crime, you may still wish to file a lawsuit against the officer. An attorney can help you decide whether it’s worth pursuing the case.
How to File a Complaint for Police Misconduct
Any individual who has knowledge of or witnesses law enforcement misconduct (actions which violate federal or state law or departmental procedures and policy) can file a complaint. Complaints are generally filed with the involved employee’s supervisor, but you can file one through another supervisor, by mail, through the Internal Affairs Unit, or with the Duty Officer of the department.
An Area Supervisor will be available by phone year-round, 24 hours a day. Keep in mind that falsely reporting misconduct can result in a civil suit or criminal charges.
Civil Rights Violations
According to federal law, it’s illegal to willfully deprive a person of any immunities, privileges, or rights protected or secured by the U.S. Constitution or laws. Deprivation of these rights can include sexual misconduct, physical assault, failure to intervene, or deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm or medical condition.
Police misconduct claims regarding interference with Civil Rights will be investigated by the federal Department of Justice. To get a conviction, it must be proved that the officer acted willfully and deprived the victim to their legal or constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen. If your civil rights were violated, contact the FBI office in your area to file a complaint.
Frequently Asked Questions on Police Rights and Misconduct
Here are some commonly asked questions related to law enforcement officers’ rights:
Q: When are police officers authorized to use deadly force?
A: According to the law, an officer is allowed to employ deadly force when they’ve been threatened with a deadly weapon, they have probable cause to believe the person has threatened to cause or already caused death or serious physical harm to someone, or believe the person is at risk for causing death or harm to another person (including the officer). Deadly force is meant to be used as a last resort and is considered excessive and unnecessary in most situations.
Q: When is a cop authorized to stop and search you?
A: While every American citizen has the right to not be subjected to unreasonable frisk actions from law enforcement, officers are allowed to stop and frisk someone if they have reasonable suspicion that they’re engaging in a crime. For instance, if an officer sees what looks like a gun tucked into a suspect’s waistband, they may pat them down.
Q: How should I behave when a police officer confronts me?
A: Always remain calm and polite when interacting with a police officer. Don’t talk back or get an attitude with them, even if they’re behaving unreasonably. Resisting or fighting will only make the situation worse. In the event of police brutality, note the location, time, and date the incident occurred. It’s best if you don’t ask for identifying information from the officers, as this could alert them to your intention to file a lawsuit against them.
What to Do if You’re Facing Charges
If you were subjected to police misconduct in front of witnesses, make sure you get their contact information and any other relevant evidence. Successfully filing a claim against a cop for police misconduct is often difficult because it will be your word against theirs. If you believe you’ve been subjected to police misconduct in Arizona, speaking with a criminal defense attorney is an essential next step. They will answer your questions and help you determine whether you were a victim and what to do next, if so.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.