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Excessive force is a term that has gained significant attention in recent years, especially in discussions surrounding law enforcement practices. But what is excessive force? 

In this blog, we will delve into what is excessive force and explore its implications in various contexts. Understanding excessive force is crucial for safeguarding individual rights and promoting accountability in our justice system. Let’s explore this topic together.

What is Excessive Force?

Excessive force refers to the use of more physical power than necessary by law enforcement officers during an encounter with civilians. It encompasses actions that go beyond what is reasonable or proportional in a given situation, leading to unnecessary harm or injury to individuals.

What is excessive force in California? Excessive force is viewed seriously under state laws, which emphasize the protection of citizens’ rights and dignity. The standard for evaluating excessive force incidents often revolves around the concept of “objective reasonableness.” This means that the actions of law enforcement officers must be judged based on how a reasonable officer would respond in similar circumstances, considering factors such as the severity of the alleged crime, the level of threat posed, and the availability of alternative methods to address the situation.

California laws require law enforcement agencies to establish clear guidelines and training protocols regarding the use of force to ensure officers understand the boundaries of acceptable conduct. Additionally, individuals who believe they have been subjected to excessive force have the right to seek legal recourse and hold accountable those responsible for their injuries or violations of their civil rights.

Understanding California’s perspective on excessive force is crucial for promoting accountability, transparency, and the fair treatment of all individuals within the criminal justice system. By upholding standards of professionalism and adherence to the law, law enforcement agencies can foster trust and respect within the communities they serve.

policeman giving a ticket


When Does Police Use of Force Become Excessive or Unjustified?

We’ve gone over what is excessive force and it means when someone uses too much force than necessary. So, when does police use of force become excessive or unjustified? Sometimes, to quickly deescalate a situation, a police officer may use a high level of force, such as physical confrontation or a weapon. However, this can qualify as excessive force if certain criteria are met and it can become unjustified.

Unjustified excessive force


Disproportional Use of Force

To determine when police use of force becomes excessive or unjustified, it’s essential to examine whether the force used was proportional to the threat level. An officer should start with the least invasive and aggressive methods, such as:

  • Talking to the person
  • Simply being present in uniform
  • Giving orders

If these methods fail after some time, the officer may then proceed to more forceful options like:

  • Physical contact with open hands
  • Using weapons or police dogs
  • Lethal force, such as firearms

An officer who immediately resorts to these more aggressive options may be guilty of excessive force if the situation could have been resolved with simpler methods.

Violations of the 4th and 8th Amendments

When using force, police officers must comply with the 4th and 8th Amendments:

  • 4th Amendment: This amendment allows for reasonable search and seizure. Officers must first attempt to search a person calmly before using more forceful measures like pinning them to the ground. Any search must be reasonable, typically requiring a warrant or an urgent situation.
  • 8th Amendment: This amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. While it primarily applies to those convicted of crimes, the principle extends to how police officers must treat all individuals humanely, regardless of the circumstances.

By understanding these guidelines, it’s clear that officers must use force appropriately and only escalate their methods when necessary.

lined up police officers


The Reality of Excessive Force: Eye-Opening Statistics

Excessive force by police remains a pressing issue in the United States, despite widespread awareness and public outcry. Shocking statistics reveal the extent of the problem: U.S. police kill nearly 1,100 individuals annually, far surpassing other countries like Canada. Moreover, the disparity in police treatment based on race is alarming, with Black and Latinx Americans being twice as likely to experience force compared to their white counterparts. 

Disturbingly, approximately half of all high-profile police killings involve individuals with disabilities. These figures underscore the urgent need for systemic change and accountability within law enforcement agencies to address the crisis of excessive force effectively.

Can A Personal Injury Lawyer Help You If You’ve Been A Victim?

Yes, a personal injury lawyer can be instrumental if you’ve been a victim of excessive force or police brutality. These legal professionals specialize in civil rights and personal injury cases and can provide invaluable assistance in seeking justice and compensation for your injuries and suffering. Here’s how they can help you:

  • Legal Expertise: Personal injury lawyers specialize in handling cases related to civil rights violations, including excessive force. They understand the complexities of the legal system and can navigate the intricacies of your case effectively. They’ll know exactly when police use of force becomes excessive or unjustified.
  • Investigation and Evidence Gathering: Your lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident, gathering evidence such as eyewitness testimonies, police reports, medical records, and any available video footage. This evidence is essential for building a strong case against the responsible parties.
  • Protection of Rights: Your lawyer will advocate for your rights throughout the legal process, ensuring that you receive fair treatment and representation. They will work to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions and seek justice on your behalf.
  • Negotiation and Litigation: Your lawyer will negotiate with the opposing party, including law enforcement agencies or government entities, to seek a fair settlement for your damages. If a settlement cannot be reached, they will be prepared to litigate the case in court and advocate for your interests before a judge and jury.
  • Emotional Support: Dealing with the aftermath of excessive force can be emotionally challenging. A compassionate personal injury lawyer will provide support and guidance every step of the way, helping you navigate the legal process with confidence and reassurance.


Lawyer helping a victim of excessive force


So, what is excessive force? In summary, When law enforcement personnel use more physical force than is necessary when interacting with people. But if you still have questions and doubts about this topic, a personal injury lawyer can offer invaluable assistance and representation. If you’ve been a victim of excessive force, Kirakosian Law can and will work tirelessly to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.