Police Abuse of Authority and 42 U.S.C. section 1983 Claims

Police Abuse of Authority and 42 U.S.C. section 1983 Claims

by Apr 27, 2017

With the advent of cell phone video and body cameras, the public has become increasingly aware of a disturbing amount of police violence and dishonesty. For years, my clients have complained of serious deprivation of their rights, from factual dishonesty in their investigations to fabrication of evidence to physical abuse. For example, it was recently discovered that a crime lab in New Jersey had been fabricating lab results, possibly resulting in thousands of convictions overturned: https://www.sciencealert.com/forensic-lab-tech-caught-fabricating-results-casts-doubt-over-almost-8-000-criminal-cases. It must be remembered that the reality of those convictions means years and years of jail for innocent people. And, of course, there are the almost daily reports of police physical abuse.

When someone’s constitutional rights have been deprived, what, if anything can be done? Thankfully, both federal and state law provides remedies, commonly referred to section 1983 actions. In 1983 claims, one must show that the officer, acting under the color of authority, deprived a citizen of his rights. The important thing to remember is that, while the cause of action is similar between state and federal law, state actions require extra steps to ensure that you are able to even bring your case to court. The first thing you must do is file a Tort Claim, which is usually a standard form provided by the city or county in which the law enforcement agent is employed. That form must be filled out within six  months, or you will have abandoned the claim. My advice is to have an attorney fill out the form on your behalf so that you can avoid making any statements that they can use against you later.

Once the claim is rejected, you will have two years from the date of the incident to file your federal and state claim. The federal action adopts statute of limitations of the state in which the incident occurred, which in California is two years. Once the matter is properly filed, expect to spend a few years fighting tooth and nail over the complaint. In recent years, local governments have been loathe to admit liability in these cases and will put up a significant fight before settling; so do not expect a quick pay day.

Santa Rosa criminal defense attorney Gabriel M. Quinnan can help you seek damages for police abuses. While you cannot get back the time and effort spent originally defending yourself, he can help ensure you get compensated.