Police brutality has become a sad reality in the modern world. No matter your race or ethnic background, you could be victimized by police who go too far when carrying out their job duties. Fortunately, if you survive the abuse, the law may be on your side; you might be able to pursue financial compensation for justice and restitution.
A successful police brutality claim will primarily hinge on the legal definition of “unreasonable force.” This concept is not entirely clear in the language of the law because unreasonable force depends upon the context of the alleged police brutality.
Considering unreasonable force in context
When trying to understand when a police officer’s use of force was “reasonable” or not, an example may prove helpful. Do you think the police went beyond reasonability in this factual scenario?
- An unarmed, nonthreatening, teenager in Colorado was running away from a home after burglarizing it.
- Under state law, the police were free to use “all necessary means to effect the arrest” of a suspect trying to evade arrest, regardless of context.
- Police shot the teenager in the head.
Given the reading of state law, you might suspect that the police acted within the law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court felt differently — and it ruled that the police had administered excessive force. The Court overruled the state law. The Court deemed the state law “unconstitutional” because it permitted “unreasonable force.”
How the U.S. Supreme Court defines unreasonable uses of force
In the above case, the Supreme Court established the legal precedent that police can only use deadly force when:
- It’s required to prevent an escape; and
- Probable cause exists to believe that the suspect must be arrested to prevent a significant threat of death or a significant threat of serious physical injury.
Were you a victim of police brutality?
If you or a loved one were hurt by police brutality, you might want to learn whether you can pursue financial restitution in federal court.