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Considering Suing A Police Department For Excessive Force? Three Things You Need To Know


Law enforcement officers are tasked with the duty of protecting and serving. When force is used against a civilian, there must be a good reason. The Law Enforcement Epidemiology Project estimates that 250,000 people nationwide are injured by police officers each year. A person injured by a police officer may have an excessive force claim.

Excessive force (police brutality) claims are civil rights cases. Of course, not every use of force by a police officer is a civil rights violation. Quite the contrary, there are specific elements that a plaintiff needs to prove in these cases. Here, our Florida civil rights attorney highlights three things that you need to know if you are considering suing a police department for harm caused by excessive force.

  1. Excessive Force Cases are Federal Civil Rights Lawsuits (Section 1983) 

Do you believe you or your loved one has been a victim of excessive force by a police officer in Florida? It is essential that you understand the legal avenue through which you can seek justice. Excessive force claims typically fall under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code. In other words, these are federal civil rights cases. This section provides the right for an individual to sue state government employees and others acting “under color of state law” for civil rights violations. A federal, state, or local law enforcement department can be held legally responsible for civil rights violations of an individual officer. 

  1. Understanding the Definition of Excessive Force 

Here is a big challenge in police brutality cases: Excessive force is notoriously challenging to define. The definition of “excessive force” might sound self-explanatory, but the legal meaning is highly nuanced. Not every instance of physical contact or harm by a police officer will qualify as excessive force. Quite the contrary, the Fourth Amendment allows law enforcement officers to use a reasonable amount of force, considering the circumstances they confront. In excessive force cases, courts will assess the reasonableness of the force by looking at factors such as:

  • The severity of the crime at issue;
  • The threat posed by the suspect to the officer or others; and
  • Whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee. 
  1. Do Not Go It Alone: Seek Professional Legal Representation 

Perhaps one of the most crucial pieces of advice for those considering suing a police department is to seek professional legal representation. Going up against a police department and, by extension, the city or state they represent, is not a small task. Not only do these entities have vast resources at their disposal, but the law is, in many ways, tilted in their favor. Excessive force claims are complicated and civilians need a strong and experienced Florida civil rights lawyer on their side.

Contact Our Florida Civil Rights Attorney Today

At The Baez Law Firm, our Florida civil rights attorney is a skilled, passionate, and experienced advocate for justice. If you or your loved one was the victim of excessive force by police, we are here to help. Contact us today to set up your strictly confidential initial appointment. With law offices in Miami and Orlando, we handle civil rights cases throughout all of Florida.

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