Police officers do a tough, demanding, and dangerous job every day to keep Las Vegas safe for everyone, residents and tourists alike. However, officers can overstep the boundaries of policing and engage in misconduct, including excessive force, that violates citizens’ constitutional rights. When this happens, their actions must be examined to determine how far is too far and if victims are owed damages.
If you believe Vegas police used excessive force during your arrest, an excessive force and police misconduct attorney from De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers can seek damages against the liable party and seek to prove they violated your civil rights. We also defend law enforcement officers who have been accused of using excessive force or police misconduct. Whichever your situation is, our attorney will review your situation and advise you of your next steps during a free consultation with our team today.
What is considered ‘Excessive Force’
The law allows police and other Nevada law enforcement officers to use some level of force to maintain or regain control of particular circumstances. They are also entitled to use deadly force in certain situations, as well—but only when necessary, as outlined in NRS § 200.140. Such instances include when an officer needs to arrest or apprehend someone, stop a suspect or escaped inmate from fleeing, or protect themselves from harm.
Excessive force occurs when law enforcement’s actions step outside of the bounds of what is reasonable, necessary, or legal to subdue a suspect or control a situation. It is behavior that breaks the law or violates a person’s civil rights. Police can engage in excessive force in many ways.
Examples of Excessive Police Force
Common examples of excessive police force include:
- Excessive physical force: This includes hitting, slapping, punching, or otherwise physically battering a victim when it is not necessary to do so. These situations may involve using guns, batons, tasers, and other items on subdued victims who are complying with police and following their orders. This is one reason why such use is seen as unjustified or unreasonable.
- Use of physical restraints: Using handcuffs, zip ties, chokeholds, and other neck restraints on victims who have been apprehended and cooperating with police can be considered excessive force. An example of unnecessary force also includes being held down while restrained.
- Use of chemical agents: Sometimes, police officers may resort to using pepper spray, tear gas, and other chemical agents to control large crowds at protests or riot scenes. These riot control agents can irritate and injure the eyes, nose, skin, lungs, and other areas of the body. When these agents are used on peaceful, controlled crowds, it can be viewed as excessive use of police force. These items are intended for unruly, hard-to-control crowds.
- Verbal abuse: Tempers and emotions can run high between police officers and citizens, and charged words can be exchanged. However, police officers who use slurs and derogatory comments could be viewed as crossing the line into using excessive force.
An excessive force lawyer with our Las Vegas firm will review the circumstances of your situation and determine if the police officer’s actions amount to excessive force.
What Is Police Misconduct?
Police misconduct is any action that breaks the law or guidelines police are supposed to follow while performing their duties. Excessive force is one type of police misconduct. Others include:
- Police brutality
- False arrest
- Lying, making false reports
- Witness or evidence tapering
- Racial profiling
- Coerced (forced) confessions
- Planted evidence
- Sexual assault
- Improper use of a firearm
- Illegal search and seizures
Generally, police misconduct is any action that is outside the scope of a law enforcement officer’s job. It is also any action that violates a person’s civil rights.
Types of Excessive Force Claims in Nevada
Excessive force most commonly involves the use of physical actions, such as punching, kicking, or hitting. But other types of nonphysical measures can also meet the definition of excessive force if administered by individuals in positions of authority. These can include:
- Verbal abuse, such as racial epithets.
- Use of chemical actions such as pepper spray or mace.
- Putting someone into restraints such as handcuffs or zip ties.
- Use of a taser or baton to subdue someone.
Law enforcement officers are most commonly cited in excessive force claims, but personnel such as security guards hired to protect a workplace, a concert, or an athletic event, who also have claims of authority, can also be subject to excessive force claims. Those private security officers are also evaluated using the reasonableness standard.
Who Is Liable in Cases Involving Excessive Force or Police Misconduct?
Proving that excessive force and police misconduct occurred can be a complex undertaking. It can also be challenging to determine who is legally liable for damages in these cases. Each case is unique, and the case’s outcome will depend on the facts, circumstances, and other variables involved. Depending on the case’s facts, a plaintiff may bring a case against the officer or the police department where they are employed.
Sometimes, actions that can be viewed as police misconduct can occur by mistake, which can be due to a lack of training or inexperience. In other cases, it can be construed as intentional harm. Either way, excessive force, and police misconduct can cause victims hardship that is challenging to overcome. They can suffer serious physical, mental, and emotional injuries, and losses that affect their income and way of life.
How We Can Help in a Vegas Excessive Force & Police Misconduct Case
If you believe Las Vegas police mishandled you with excessive force or that they engaged in misconduct in any way, you may want to retain legal representation as soon as you can. Your attorney will need time to build a case for the lawsuit they will file on your behalf.
It is on the plaintiffs in these cases to prove a police officer or law enforcement official overstepped their boundaries and engaged in misconduct. You may be able to press criminal charges by filing a complaint with the local district attorney’s office, which decides whether to move forward with a case.
We Can Seek Civil Action Against Law Enforcement on Your Behalf
If you hire us to file a civil case against law enforcement, our police misconduct lawyer in Las Vegas will manage your entire case. First, we will get your side of the story so that we understand what happened. We will thoroughly investigate the situation, review any police reports filed, and seek to collect evidence proving how you were treated while in police custody. Such evidence can include witness testimony, surveillance footage, or footage from a police body camera.
Having video footage can help us prove how you were treated during your arrest. We will set out to build your case to establish that excessive force or misconduct took place. If found guilty of excessive force or misconduct, a police officer can be prosecuted under federal and state laws. We can also assist you in filing a civil complaint and/or a police misconduct report. We will also ensure you meet all important deadlines as we keep your case on track.
Recoverable Compensation in an Excessive Police Force & Police Misconduct Case
Our police misconduct attorney in Las Vegas will review the facts, details, and circumstances of your case and determine who is liable for your injuries. The damages you could recover will depend on various factors, including how severe your injuries are, how long it will take you to recover from them, and whether they could affect you for the rest of your life. You may be able to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Loss of a limb
- Permanent disability
- Other incident-related expenses
If a loved one died due to an incident involving excessive police force and misconduct in Las Vegas, our attorney could help the family file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The deceased’s lost income
- Loss of companionship
Our legal team will walk you through the process of pursuing this legal action according to Nevada’s laws for wrongful death actions.
We Offer Defense for Vegas Police Facing Misconduct Charges, Lawsuits
If you are a law enforcement official who is accused of abusing your authority by engaging in excessive force or police misconduct, our lawyer can represent you and defend you against these allegations. We understand that protecting citizens is not an easy job to do and that law enforcement officers must often make decisions in the face of stressful and uncertain situations every day. We also realize that your job requires that you think on your feet and quickly make decisions. Sometimes, these decisions lead to unintended consequences.
Vegas officers accused of police misconduct have a lot on the line in these cases, including possible fines, prison, and the loss of a career of serving and protecting the public, if they are found in violation of state and federal laws or department rules. Hiring legal counsel to take on your case is strongly advised. We will conduct a full investigation, collect evidence that establishes your position, and develop a defense strategy that is specific to your case. We will help you tell your story and seek to clear your name.
Proving Excessive Force Claims
Whether an officer is prosecuted for use of excessive force or not, you can seek to hold them accountable by filing a civil lawsuit for your injuries and their behavior.
One of the primary ways of doing that is by filing a claim under U.S. Code Section 1983. This claim allows people to file lawsuits against those who injure them under the so-called “color of law”—meaning, with the authority conferred by the law for being a police officer. To prevail in a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show:
- Their constitutional rights were violated. Two common causes of action include claims under Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, or the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
- The person who violated the rights was acting in his or her professional capacity.
- That person wasn’t covered by a legitimate claim of qualified immunity.
An individual injured in an excessive force incident may also recover damages in a civil lawsuit by filing a tort action. This is an additional way of seeking financial damages for injuries sustained in an instance of excessive force. A judge or jury will decide if the case involves excessive force as defined by the law.
Is Excessive Force Ever Justified?
Law enforcement may use lethal force under certain circumstances. As specified in the Nevada Revised Statutes, police may use force:
- To protect themselves or someone else from serious bodily injury.
- To quell a riot or other types of severe unrest.
- To arrest an escaped inmate from jail or prison.
- To stop a fleeing suspect who poses danger.
- To overcome resistance to arrest or other legal processes or mandates.
Various jurisdictions have processes for investigating claims for the unjustified use of lethal force. It may start with an investigation by an outside law enforcement agency or a neighboring district attorney’s office.
Ultimately, the review goes down two tracks: whether the officer violated policy and procedure, which is an administrative proceeding, or whether they committed a crime. The two processes can run in parallel and neither impedes your right to file civil litigation over the matter.
What Is “Qualified Immunity?”
The conduct of the police is under almost constant scrutiny. One area that activists are questioning is the application of “qualified immunity” in cases involving claims of excessive force and the police. What is qualified immunity, and how might it affect your claim?
Qualified immunity provides public officials with some protection from liability for their actions while serving in their professional capacities. The key to understanding the phrase is the word “qualified.” The immunity isn’t absolute. It only protects public employees if they violate in the course of their duties a clearly established constitutional right. The goal of qualified immunity is to strike a balance between allowing people to be good public servants and making them accountable to the law.
The personal injury team at De Castroverde Law Group has vast experience in challenging claims of qualified immunity and in representing clients in bringing personal injury lawsuits in connection with these cases. Our attorneys believe that no one is above the law and the actions of police deserve to be scrutinized when they go clearly out of bounds of constitutional rights. Our attorneys handle a range of personal injury matters, including wrongful death cases, for clients in the Las Vegas area. Call us or contact us online today for a free consultation.
Call Us Today for a Free Consultation
Whether you experienced excessive force or police misconduct during your interaction with law enforcement or you are on the law enforcement side facing police misconduct charges or allegations, you deserve to protect your rights as you seek due process. Our police misconduct attorney in Las Vegas is ready to help you with your case and explain what comes next.
The team at De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers puts our legal knowledge and experience to work for you and seeks the best outcome for your case. We will work to protect your future as we fight the charges in your case. Reach out to us today for a free consultation and case review.
States and the federal government have recognized that being a police officer is a dangerous and difficult job. Enforcing the laws of the country can sometimes turn sour. Occasionally, it ends in a physical conflict where an officer and a suspect or other individual have an altercation. The law allows officers to use force to protect themselves under certain circumstances. But their rights to do so aren’t unlimited. Under the law, officers can use only the minimum amount of force necessary to complete their tasks.
As we know, sometimes officers go over the line and end up using excessive force, causing major injuries or even more tragic consequences. If this happens to you, you need to get qualified, legal counsel. Personal injury attorneys can guide you through the complicated aftermath of the use of excessive force against you. Here’s a way to understand your rights and how best to respond.