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What You Need to Know About Suing the Police

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Whether it's an increase in dangerous equipment or tactics, a rise in citizen-police interactions and altercations, or just the ubiquity of cell phone and body cameras, the number of civil lawsuits filed against police officers, their departments, and cities has been skyrocketing. (This could also be due to the dearth of criminal charges filed against officers for misconduct.) At the same time, cities have been paying millions to settle police lawsuits.

While suing the police for injuries is possible, the process is different and can be somewhat more complicated than your average injury lawsuit. Here's what you need to know:

Some people may not even know they can sue the police if they are injured during an arrest or altercation. While officers may have some immunity from certain claims, that immunity doesn't cover misconduct. And you also have rights when it comes to recording police and requesting evidence.

2. How to Sue the Police

As we mentioned above, suing the police isn't like suing the average person or a corporation. You must first file a tort claim or notice with the government entity in charge of the department, then wait for a response before filing a civil lawsuit.

3. Police Brutality Lawsuits and Section 1983

Section 1983 of Civil Rights Act exists to protect victims of excessive force, illegal searches, and other constitutional violations, and provides the means to sue individual police officers, the city or county government, and even the mayor.

4. When Can I Sue Police for False Arrest?

Even if you have not suffered a physical injury, police can still be liable for abusing their authority. Police officers cannot arrest you without probable cause that you committed a crime, but just because prosecutors decline to file charges or drop charges later doesn't necessarily make the arrest illegal.

5. If Police Shoot Your Dog, Can You Sue?

Sometimes it's another family member injured by cops. So if your dog is injured during a search or an arrest, can you sue on his or her behalf?

Police lawsuits are complicated -- politically and legally -- so consult an experienced attorney before suing the police.

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