Police Misconduct

Police officers are trusted officials who have a duty to protect and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth. Police officers have broad powers and wide discretion in carrying out their duly appointed duties. The Constitution of the United States of America, The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, and other related state and federal laws place limits on how far the police can go in carrying out their duties and enforcing the Law. On rare occasions police go too far, become overzealous, or even improper in carrying out their duties, thus violating the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Victims of such misconduct have recourse through both state and federal law as well as the Constitution of the United States. Such laws are enacted to protect the rights of citizens from abuse by government officials. Federal laws allow attorney fees and compensatory and punitive damages as legal redress for an injured party to uphold their rights and deter police misconduct.

Being confronted by an officer of the law can be a frightening experience. It is especially unsettling when an officer abuses the power that they were given. When an officer violates the very law they were sworn to uphold they need to be held accountable for their actions. It is important that our civil rights are enforced because they provide a balance between the duty of law enforcement to uphold the laws and the rights of individuals to be free from police misconduct. Without these important deterrents police will remain unchecked and free to abuse their discretionary powers.

The primary civil rights law in which victims of police misconduct are to rely on is 42 U.S.C. section 1983. This law makes it an unlawful act for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive another of his/her rights under the constitution or federal law.
Some common claims of police misconduct are:

False arrest;
Malicious prosecution;
Unreasonable/excessive force;
Retaliatory arrest;
Failure to Intervene;
Wrongful death;
Witness tampering;
Racial profiling; and
Unwarranted search and seizure.

Qualified Immunity

In many police misconduct cases a police officer will rely on the defense of qualified immunity. Police are immune from lawsuits in carrying out their duties as a police officer unless they were engaging in willful and/or unreasonable conduct. Negligence or the failure to exercise due care is not enough to create liability. A successful defense of qualified immunity will defeat a claim against an officer where the officer’s conduct did not violate a clearly established constitutional or statutory right. The officer must have violated an individual‘s legally protected right or prevented an individual in engaging in such a right.

A successful civil rights claim consists of showing that the actions of the police exceeded reasonable bounds, infringed upon an individual’s rights, and produced some kind of injury or damage.

Police misconduct cases can be difficult. Police officers hold one of the most important jobs in our country. They take an oath to serve and protect our communities. We entrust them with enormous responsibilities, and they are cloaked with immense power and authority in order to take on those responsibilities. To those people who fall victim to such an abuse of power, the consequences can be devastating and tragic. We understand the wide-ranging effects that can be caused by police misconduct. We are here to listen, to guide you through this difficult time, and to aggressively advocate for your rights.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of police misconduct, please do not hesitate to contact our office for a confidential consultation at 508.407.8338 or email us at info@jdmolleurlaw.com. Alternatively, feel free to contact us at the afterhours line at (508) 579-8333.

This information does not constitute legal advice and is written for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult with a lawyer for specific legal advice.

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