If you were injured while being arrested, you are probably wondering if your rights were violated or not. While this is not legal advice, there are some references that can help you get an idea if your injuries at the hands of law enforcement were justified or not. Our #1 recommendation is CALL US if in doubt. That being said, let’s see what the laws say about injuries during an arrest. Here are 4 things to consider if you were in this very situation!
Justifications for the Use of Force
1. Self-defense: Officers may use force, including deadly force, when they reasonably believe that their lives or the lives of others are in imminent danger. This is the most common cause for people being injured while being arrested. It is also the hardest one to grasp.
If an officer feels someone is resisting, they may think the resistance will escalate and will do what they can to de-escalate the situation. Arrests happen in a variety of areas and as a result injuries can occur in a number of ways. A common situation is when an officer takes someone down and they are injured on the pavement.
Just because someone shows hesitation in their arrest, does not mean an officer can use whatever force they want. If you were severely injured during an interaction with law enforcement, talk to an attorney regardless. We are trained in the law to understand what may or may not be sufficient for a case.
2. Defense of others: Police officers are often authorized to use force to protect others if there is a reasonable belief that someone is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. This could be inside a home, a vehicle or in a public area. If a person is behind the wheel and the officer feels they may take off and hurt others while evading capture – then it’s possible they may break a window or aggressively pull a person out.
Does that mean you have a case? Not necessarily. If the officer feels that they need to urgently pull you out for the well-being of others, including themselves, they will do so. The best advice is to comply as best as you can and consider your own well-being as a priority.
3. Preventing a crime: Officers may use force to prevent a suspect from escaping if they have probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a serious crime.
In the example above, a person behind a wheel is a person with a weapon in hand. If an officer feels they are going to illegally take-off, they may use force to prevent that.
4. Effecting a lawful arrest: Police officers can use force to apprehend a suspect who is resisting arrest, but the level of force should be reasonable and proportionate to the resistance encountered.
Reasonable and appropriate is where civil rights lawyers like ourselves come in. What is reasonable may not be reasonable, what is unreasonable may be reasonable. Neither party, you or the officer, are equipped to determine what is what. And so, lawyers, courts, judges and juries exist for a reason. If in doubt, talk to an attorney.
Instances Where Use of Force May Not Be Justified
Excessive force: If the force used is deemed excessive or unreasonable in relation to the threat posed, it may not be justified.
For example, I am pulled over and put in handcuffs as a person matching my description has been reported in the area committing a crime. Going through that is frustrating to anyone. However, it is not a violation of your rights to be subject to scrutiny by the police if the circumstances make sense.
What would possibly be considered excessive force in that example could be that in the event of an arrest, you are beaten and confused for someone else. These things do happen! We recently had a case where a man was pulled over during a police chase. Police pulled over the wrong car, the wrong man and then proceeded to injure him.
Lack of imminent threat: If there is no immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, the use of force may be considered unjustified.
In the example above, even if the person is a suspect – to bring down and beat them is not justified unless the person posed a physical threat to the officer. Violence in the process of arresting someone is not required and can only be used if it’s deemed necessary.
Arrested While Being Injured Merits a Phone Call
It’s not just about laws. It’s also about codes, policies, and your civil rights. For example, if the use of force goes against department policies or training, it may not be justified. California Penal Code 835a says:
A peace officer shall not be deemed an aggressor or lose the right to self-defense by the use of objectively reasonable force in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c) to effect the arrest or to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.
If the person showed no intent to resist or escape, then why would physical force be required? It’s crucial to understand that determining any type of police misconduct requires a thorough study of EVERYTHING that went on. Often, details over a phone call are enough to merit a dive into your case. So, it absolutely makes sense to reach out to us if you were injured while being arrested.