In law enforcement, “excessive force” is a critical concept that undergoes rigorous scrutiny. Understanding its meaning and implications is essential for ensuring accountability and upholding civil rights. Let’s explore in this blog the meaning of excessive force in law enforcement and clarify the definition and implications of this complex topic.

law enforcement lined up

Meaning of Excessive Force

The use of force beyond what is reasonably required to achieve a legal objective is known as excessive force. To put it another way, it means using greater force than is objectively appropriate in the given situation. 

An officer may be held accountable for using excessive force if they use more force than is necessary to apprehend a subject or shield the public.

Here are a few instances of using excessive force:

Is It Legal To Use Force When Arresting?

When it comes to upholding law and order, defending oneself or others, or making a valid arrest, law enforcement officials are permitted to use force. But, the amount of force used must be appropriate for the threat being faced and cannot be greater than what is necessary to accomplish the legitimate goal.

Determining whether or not excessive force was used depends on the circumstances surrounding the occurrence. The severity of the claimed infraction, the suspect’s conduct, and the level of threat all play a role in determining whether or not excessive force was employed. Most importantly, the study is done from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the area, taking into consideration the rapid decisions that police have to make in tight situations that change quickly.

law enforcement using force

U.S. Laws That Protect Us Against Excessive Force

Laws in the United States, including the U.S. Constitution, protect civilians from experiencing excessive force by the government. The Fourth Amendment specifically guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. In a 1989 case, the Supreme Court broadened this principle to include police officers’ use of force during arrests or stops, emphasizing the requirement for reasonableness in such situations.

In California, state laws take a serious stance on excessive force, prioritizing the protection of citizens’ rights and dignity. Evaluating incidents of excessive force often centers around the concept of “objective reasonableness.” This means that law enforcement actions are assessed based on how a reasonable officer would respond under similar circumstances, considering factors like the seriousness of the alleged offense, the level of threat presented, and alternative methods available to address the situation.

California mandates that law enforcement agencies establish clear guidelines and training protocols on the use of force to ensure officers understand acceptable conduct boundaries. Individuals who believe they have been victims of excessive force have the right to seek legal remedies and hold accountable those responsible for their injuries or civil rights violations.

Understanding California’s approach to excessive force is crucial for promoting accountability, transparency, and equitable treatment within the criminal justice system. By upholding professionalism and legal standards, law enforcement agencies can foster trust and respect within their communities.

American flag with handcuffs and gavel

You’ve Been A Victim Of Excessive Force: What Now?

Excessive force incidents can have detrimental effects on the confidence the public has in law enforcement as well as the persons who were engaged. Excessive force victims may sustain bodily harm, psychological distress, and a severe loss of faith in the legal system. 

You have the right to file a lawsuit for damages if you were the victim of excessive force or police brutality. This may entail filing a lawsuit in federal court to hold the government accountable for violating your fundamental rights, such as your Fourth Amendment freedom from arbitrary searches and seizures. Your rights to due process and equal protection under the law, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, may also be violated by excessive force.

People can file lawsuits under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 for violations of their federal statutory rights or the constitution, especially when those violations happen “under color of any statute,” which includes activities by state and local government agencies. This clause gives victims of police violence the right to sue government organizations and police personnel.

You might also be able to make a personal injury claim for compensation if you were physically hurt severely during a police interaction. And if things got really bad, you may even be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages if a family member was killed by a police officer’s use of deadly force.

Looking into suing the police or making a personal injury claim? You can obtain clarification on your legal rights and possibilities for bringing a lawsuit under state or federal law against the police agency by speaking with a civil rights attorney like Kirakosian Law

man in handcuffs

Meaning of Excessive Force – A Summary

Promoting accountability, defending civil rights, and building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve all depend on an understanding of the meaning of excessive force. All people’s constitutional rights can be upheld as law enforcement authorities carry out their duty to serve and protect by adhering to norms of professionalism, restraint, and respect for human dignity. 

A personal injury lawyer can offer invaluable assistance and representation if you’ve been a victim of excessive force, working tirelessly to protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.