What, exactly, is “police brutality”?  When can you bring a lawsuit for “police brutality”?

It is often the case that when a person is arrested police officers use varying amounts of physical force to restrain the person arrested.  Guidelines issued to virtually all police allow different amounts of force under different situations.  Generally speaking, an arrest should be accomplished without harm, if possible, to the person arrested.  If, however, there is a “reasonable” belief that the person to be arrested is about to harm the police officer making or assisting in the arrest, or harm some bystander, or may even cause serious injury to himself, then the officer or officers can use an “appropriate” amount of force to avoid or mitigate such an outcome.

Any force used in excess of that amount of force deemed “reasonable” under the particular circumstances of a situation is called “excessive force”.  “Excessive Force” can be the basis of a lawsuit.

It is very important to realize that a person may have a valid lawsuit for “Excessive Force” even though the arrest was perfectly legal.  The issue of whether a “false arrest” was involved is a separate issue entirely!  The issue of whether there was “excessive force” used by a police officer can be considered whether or not the arrest itself is later determined to be legal.  Likewise, even if excessive force was used, that does not make an otherwise legal arrest illegal.

And who decides whether the force used in an arrest was reasonable or not, and therefore “excessive” or not?  Ultimately it is the “finder of fact” – either judge or jury, depending on the circumstances.   Often, with the availability of witnesses, or nowadays, videos, or just through the severity of the injury sustained by the person arrested, the answer as to “reasonableness” becomes clear.

This is certainly an area that requires an attorney with extensive “Police Misconduct” experience since the line between “reasonable” and “excessive” force can be a very fine distinction.