New York City Civil Rights Violation Lawyer

If police officers have violated your civil rights in the State of New York, you should file a lawsuit and receive compensation.   Here is a basic explanation of the common claims an individual may have against a police officer for violating his civil rights: (1) False Arrest, (2) Malicious Prosecution, (3) Denial of a Right to a Fair Trial, and (4) Excessive Force.

FALSE ARREST

This claim can be brought against a police officer who violates a person’s civil rights by making an arrest without having probable cause.  This claim covers a very specific and short period of time – from the point of arrest up to the minute that you are brought before a judge for the first time and arraigned.  In New York City, this is generally a 24-hour period.  In order to have a legitimate false arrest claim against a police officer, you must prove the following four facts (the law calls these facts “elements”).

  1. The police officer intended to confine the person
  2. The person knew of that confinement
  3. The person did not consent to the confinement by the police officer
  4. The police officer’s confinement of the person was not privileged – meaning (generally) that there was no probable cause to believe the person committed any crime at the time of the arrest

There a few important points that my office would like to make about this claim.  A person cannot bring this claim against a police officer if after the arrest, he or she pleaded guilty to any offense.  This applies even if a person pleaded guilty to simply a non-criminal ticket or violation-level offense.  The most common example is a disorderly conduct, under Penal Law Section 240.20.  Again, even if you were falsely arrested, you cannot bring this claim if you pleaded guilty to anything in court, even a disorderly conduct ticket.  The one exception (of sorts) is if a person received an adjournment contemplation of dismissal (commonly known as an ACD or ACOD).  If you received an ACD, then you are still able to bring this claim against the police officer, if he did not have probable cause to arrest you.

I should add that this claim may apply even if a person is not technically arrested.  This can apply to any confinement of a person, even if it is a brief 5 minute encounter where someone was ordered to stop or sit down on the sidewalk, then is told he is free to go a few minutes later.

MALICIOUS PROSECUTION

This is another claim that is typically brought against a police officer who violates a person’s civil rights by making an arrest without probable cause.  Malicious Prosecution covers the time period from the arraignment up to the final resolution of the case.  In order to have a legitimate Malicious Prosecution claim against a police officer, you must prove the following five facts (again these are called “elements” under the law).

  1. The police officer initiated (started) the prosecution against the person who was arrested
  2. The police officer lacked probable cause to believe the prosecution would succeed (end in a conviction)
  3. The police officer acted with actual malice
  4. The prosecution ended favorably for the person who was arrested (meaning a complete dismissal)
  5. The person arrested was deprived of his liberty during the proceeding

There are a couple of points my office would like to make about the Malicious Prosecution claim.  First, this is a claim that is brought against the police officers, not against a prosecuting attorney.  The word “prosecution” sounds like this is a claim that can be brought against a prosecutor if you win your case, but instead this is another claim that can be brought against a police officer who makes an illegal arrest.

The most important thing to know about this claim is that the case has to end with a full and total dismissal of all charges.  Importantly, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD or ACOD) does not count as a full dismissal.  So, even if you were falsely arrested for no reason, if you accepted an ACD to end your case then you CANNOT bring a Malicious Prosecution claim in court.

DENIAL OF A RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL

This is a claim that addresses the wrong a person suffers when a police officer fabricates evidence or lies on his police paperwork to intentionally harm the person arrested.  In order to have a legitimate Denial of a Right to a Fair Trial claim against a police officer, you must prove the following four facts (again, called “elements” under the law).

  1. The police officer fabricated evidence
  2. This fabricated evidence was likely to influence a jury
  3. The officer forwards that fabricated evidence to the prosecutors
  4. The arrested person suffered a deprivation of liberty as a result

A few issues my office would like to note about this claim.  First, this claim may be available to a person even if he received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD or ACOD) to resolve the case.   Also, even though the claim refers to “a trial”, there is no legal requirement that a trial actually occur in the case, so long as police officer fabricated evidence or lied on his paperwork, and forwarded it to the prosecutor.

EXCESSIVE FORCE

This is a claim that addresses perhaps the most serious wrong-doing that can be done by a police officer.  It can lead to the most publicity, and to the highest monetary damages paid by a government entity.  It is also perhaps the most difficult to describe and explain.  It can simply be explained as follows:

  1. The police officer used force, and
  2. The force used was unreasonable.

There are a few points my office would like to make on this claim.  First, there is no requirement (unlike the other claims) that the person arrested has his case resolved favorably.  Even if a person commits murder, and there a many eyewitnesses to the event, the police still cannot use unreasonable force in arresting the murder suspect.  Also, it is very difficult to make a general statement as to what counts as unreasonable force.  It all depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.  For example, under certain circumstances, a police officer can shoot and kill someone, and that use of force was justified and reasonable.  However, under other circumstances a police officer during an arrest may cause a simple bruise on a person’s face, and a court may determine that the force was unreasonable.  Again, it simply depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

If you have a legitimate claim that a police officer has violated your civil rights, please do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Dietrich P. Epperson at (347) 561-0025 for a free consultation.