According to the Atlanta Police Department (APD), there were at least 10 officer-involved shootings in 2014, and from 12/9/18-12/15/18, a period of approximately one week, there were a total of 503 arrests reported by the APD. This statistic represents more than just the number of arrests made in a week. It represents 503 cases of possible altercations or instances violence between residents of our city and the law enforcement officers sworn to protect them, and while many people do give police officers the benefit of the doubt in most scenarios, they are also aware that police officers are humans beings that make mistakes some of which can injure everyday citizens.
You might often hear the term police brutality or the use of excessive force used on the news, but how many instances have you heard of where an officer has been held financially liable for injuring a citizen? If you are like most people, you probably haven’t heard of many cases where this has occurred. Is it possible? Yes, police officers can be held liable for injuries caused by them during an arrest, but to be successful, you have to demonstrate that the officers’ actions rose to a high level of egregiousness. The reason many people employ an attorney for these types of cases is due to the fact that cases involving police misconduct or brutality are very complex and in this particular class of civil cases, the law is often against the plaintiff on multiple fronts.
Laws in GA Related to Injuries Sustained due to Police Arrests
There are both state and federal laws that dictate what an officer can and cannot do during an arrest. At the state level, O.C.G.A. § 35-1-7 states that an officer cannot be held liable for their actions while performing their duties in an emergency scenario unless the officers’ actions rise to the level of gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or malfeasance. This means that the officer has to intentionally injure you while performing their duties, but it does not mean that they can be held liable for defending themselves, subduing you to perform their job, etc. The more common argument made in cases of police brutality has its roots under violations of your constitutional rights.
Federal Laws Regarding Police Brutality or Misconduct
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects all Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, and excessive force has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to fall under this umbrella. Moreover, 42 U.S.C §1983 prohibits police officers from denying any American of the rights and privileges afforded to them in the U.S. Constitution.
The Problem with Police Misconduct or Brutality Cases
The main issue that many people run into when they bring a case against a police officer, even in the case where a family member has been fatally shot, is breaking through the protection afforded to that officer under the doctrine of qualified immunity. According to the Atlanta personal injury law firm of Cambre & Associates, qualified immunity protects police officers from having to go through a trial unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the officer’s actions violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional right that the officer should have known about. The U.S. Supreme Court and the courts below it have interpreted this doctrine in such a way that it has made this class of cases particularly difficult to prove, which is why contacting a lawyer if you have been injured as a result of an arrest is extremely important if you have sustained injuries as a result of an arrest.