Right to Compensation for Excessive Force by a Police Officer


November 20, 2012

Force, including deadly force, may be used by police officers to prevent the escape of suspects or to defend the officers or others from the perceived risk of injury or death. Police officers do such important work, and put their lives on the line for us every day.

The carrying of a lethal weapon, and the ability to use deadly force carries a huge responsibility. It is a tough job, and most officers are professional and committed to doing their very best to protect us. By using deadly force, officers often inflict the very type of severe injury or death that they are trying to prevent. Sometimes they have no choice. The Fourth Amendment protects persons against "unreasonable searches and seizures." The Fourth Amendment includes what is called a reasonableness requirement. When a criminal is stopped by the use of deadly force it is viewed as a "seizure." There must be a determination of whether this "seizure" was reasonable based on enforcing the law effectively verses violating the rights of a suspect. Excessive force by a law enforcement officer may involve brutal physical attacks, dangerous sleeper holds, baton beatings and unnecessary gunshot injuries.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of police brutality, our experienced attorneys can evaluate your claim and advise you regarding your rights and remedies. Our attorneys represent victims throughought Atlanta and all of Georgia.

Police officers do not have an absolute right to use deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects without regard to the circumstances. In some situations it can be considered a violation of a victim’s Constitutional rights and may create a basis for civil liability. Courts have found in some cases that when a suspect poses no immediate threat to an officer and no threat to others, the outcome from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so. Even where deadly force may be justified, such as where the suspect is armed, courts typically impose an obligation to give a warning, if possible, before the officer fires upon a suspect.

The civil liability of officers for the use of deadly force is based on what they actually believe to be true as well as the reasonableness of that belief at the time. This is called the objective reasonableness standard. If the officer reasonably believes at the time he discharges his firearm that the suspect was in possession of a weapon and that his life was in danger, then civil liability would probably not be imposed even if it turns out the suspect has no weapon in his or her possession. On the other hand, civil liability can be imposed if the court does not believe that the officer had an objective reasonable belief that the suspect was threatening him or anyone else, even if the suspect is in possession of a firearm. The use of deadly force may be judged improper and lead to the imposition of civil liability.

In the culture of the police department, it is not unusual for officers to stand up for a fellow officer involved in the use of deadly force and try to protect him from liability by telling their subjective version of events. It is often difficult to determine what may have happened at a scene where deadly force is utilized because the only witness testimony other than police officers is that of the victim of deadly force. These incidents occur at times of high stress when split second decisions have to be made. This can bring into question whether an officer acted within the bounds of proper training and procedure or over-reacted. If you or anyone you know has been injured or killed due to excessive deadly force used by a police officer, you should contact our experienced Atlanta excessive force attorneys for a free consultation.

Our experienced Georgia personal injury lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.