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What You Need to Know About Police Brutality Claims & Law in New York City

There may be no more polarizing and divisive topic today than that of police officer negligence. It is important to understand the difference between the unlawful and intentional acts of a police officer that results in a violation of your constitutional rights versus the negligence of a police officer as they carry out their duties that causes harm to an individual as a result. Police officers generally have broad powers to carry out their duties. The Constitution and other local laws are in place to limit what police can do while trying to carry out their duties.

When a police officer goes too far and violates the constitutional rights of the citizens, it is important to contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights of recourse. Several recent cases in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and other cities in the United States have shown that some police officers do indeed perform unlawful acts in violation of the Constitution. One of the primary purposes of the nation’s civil rights laws is to protect the nation’s citizens from the abuses of government, which unfortunately do occur.

When a police encounter takes place, police are benefited with a degree of immunity. As long as the officer is performing his job properly, there is no violation of civil rights. A claim against the police may exist when there is willful, or unreasonable conduct that violates the Constitution. Section 1983 of the United States Code is the benchmark civil rights law for police misconduct and it makes it unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another person of his or her rights under the Constitution or federal law. Most often, the claims brought against police officers are for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and/or use of excessive force.

In these types of claims, the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution are analyzed in order to determine if a viable claim exists. The attorneys at Leav & Steinberg specialize in evaluating these cases to determine if the police are immune from prosecution, or if they can in fact be held liable for the deprivation of your Constitutional rights.

The other side of the coin is those cases against the police while carrying out their duties that result in harm to an individual. Since police are granted a degree of immunity in their conduct, it is important to consult with a qualified attorney to determine if a viable claim exists. For instance, a police officer is responding to a call on the radio for a noise complaint in a Brooklyn neighborhood. They put their lights and sirens on and they begin speeding toward the scene, as they approach a busy intersection governed by a red-light, they disregard that light, they don’t ensure that traffic has stopped for them, and they enter the intersection causing a massive accident. This is not just mere negligence, but a reckless disregard for the safety of others. In such a case, Section 1194 of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law comes in to consideration, along with the Court of Appeals decision in Kabir v. County of Monroe, 16 N.Y.3d 217 (2011).

In order to maintain a case against the police for such an accident, it must be shown that the police were engaged in a protected action listed in the statute, and that their conduct was not merely negligent, but rather reckless when measured against the surrounding circumstances. The attorneys at Leav & Steinberg have litigated numerous cases against the police and the NYPD for cases involving false arrest, malicious prosecution, use of excessive force, and for negligence and reckless conduct.