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Injured by Police? 10 Legal Reminders About Your Rights

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

It seems like every week opens with a new story about police misconduct and brutality, giving the public more and more reason worry about their civil rights.

Following the continuing violence and police presence in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that a federal civil rights investigation is already underway and that law enforcement must act to "reduce tensions, not heighten them."

For civilians who have been injured by the police, here are 10 legal reminders on how to civilly defend your rights:

  1. In general, you must file a claim with the government before you can sue. Before you can sue the police for injuries, you typically need to file an injury (or tort) claim with the appropriate government agency and then wait for its response.
  2. Remember, you don't have to be arrested to be handcuffed. If you are outraged over being handcuffed but not necessarily injured, know that you don't need to be arrested for handcuffing to be legal.
  3. You can record police freely. Even if police arrest you, recording them may provide valuable evidence for future claims.
  4. Twitter is your friend. Historically, the arc of social media has bent toward justice. Some police attempts to use Twitter have been terrible.
  5. Federal law protects you from police misconduct. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act protects citizens from police use of brutality, racial slurs, and even lethal force.
  6. You can request police dashcam footage. Police often record vital elements of an injury with standard-issue vehicle dashcams, but it is generally on the civilian to request the footage.
  7. Qualified immunity may affect your claims. One of the greatest barriers to ever recovering from an injury caused by the police is qualified immunity. Bottom line: If officers were acting in good faith, you may not be able to recover.
  8. Civil rights charges can be criminal and/or civil. The Department of Justice can investigate federal civil rights criminal charges stemming from the same police misconduct that leads to a civil suit.
  9. Invasion of privacy by police can be actionable. Police don't have to lay hands on you in order to injure you. Just ask 30 San Diego strippers who sued after police allegedly took intimate pictures of their bodies.
  10. The government may settle your claims. While you may not get your day in court or an apology from the government for police injuries, you may just get cash.

Talk to a civil rights attorney for more information about how to protect your rights in a police injury case.

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