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Excessive force, as the name suggests, refers to use of force in excess of what an officer may reasonably deem necessary. A reasonable force is the amount of force that is necessary to protect oneself or property from a violent attack or any other type of unlawful aggression. The Fourth Amendment states that all searches and seizures are to be moderately conducted and no excessive force should be used.
A police officer who uses excessive force in an arrest, during an investigatory stop or any other seizure can be held liable. As a matter of fact, an officer may also be held liable for simply not preventing another law enforcement personnel from using excessive force. If you have become a victim of an excessive force crime, it can be in your best interest to seek immediate counsel from a professional excessive force lawyer.
The Spectrum of Usage of Force
The court understands that during an arrest or investigatory stop, an officer has a right to use some degree of physical coercion or force; however, it must be proportional to the threat and may intensify only in response of the threat. Some basic graduated methods that a police officer must follow to diffuse a situation include using their physical presence and verbal statements to direct order.
The methods that involve force may include empty-hand control i.e. using physical bodily force (punches, holds, or kicks) or less lethal methods i.e. using a baton, Tasers, chemical spray, etc. Finally, if the situation necessitates the use of lethal force, they may use firearms to neutralize the threat. However, all methods that require a certain degree of force must be stopped as soon as the need for the force ceases. For example, if a suspect or offender is restrained, they must not continue using force as they are prohibited to punish criminals who are no longer posing a threat.
How Does the Court Evaluate the Facts?
In order to determine whether excessive force was used by an officer and whether their actions were “objectively reasonable”, the courts evaluate the totality of the circumstances by taking a perspective of a reasonable officer. The court also provides them with the benefit of hindsight when evaluating the facts and circumstances pertaining to the case. Some of the common factors that a court may consider include:
The severity of the crime or circumstances
Whether any warnings were provided
Whether an immediate threat existed
Whether there was an attempt to flee
Whether there was resistance during the arrest
Whether there were any alternatives available
If you are suffered from an excessive force crime and are seeking justice, it can be highly advantageous for your case to hire a competent excessive force lawyer to ensure that your rights remain protected. It can be quite difficult to deal with excessive force cases due to their inherent nature and high level of complexity; however, a skillful excessive force lawyer can devise a solid case in your favor to ensure that you get justice for the physical or mental trauma you suffered due to the use of excessive force by a police offer.
If you wish to know more about this subject or to schedule a free consultation, contact Ettinger & Besbekos at (708) 923-0368.