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Tennessee Police Misconduct Laws and Claims

The job of the police is to serve and protect the public and most of the time, the public is glad of their sacrifice and service. However, there are times when an officer doesn't follow the proper procedures, mistreats, harasses, or intimidates civilians, or commits a crime. When these things happen it may constitute police misconduct.

Incidents of police misconduct can include using excessive force during an arrest, and demanding bribes or other behavior that violates state and federal laws. If the police cross the line into illegal activity or violate someone's civil rights, the victim may file a complaint with the police department or an appropriate city or state department. In addition, complaints can be made to the local district attorney's office, which may result in criminal charges. Further, the victim may file a civil complaint for compensation for damages or injuries caused by the misconduct.

Summary of Police Misconduct Laws in Tennessee

Sorting through the various legal statutes that apply to police misconduct can be confusing. If you have a police misconduct case, it will take an attorney to properly identify your potential causes of action, but you can get an idea of what those might be from the summary of the statutes below.

State and Federal Statutes

Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 16, Part 4 - Misconduct Involving Public Officials and Employees

Federal Law

What Is Police Misconduct?

Common Situations for Police Misconduct:

The most common police interactions where misconduct can occur:

  • Traffic stops;
  • Arrests; and
  • Detentions.

Police Misconduct Examples:

  • False arrest
  • False imprisonment
  • Excessive force
  • Abuse of authority

What to Do if You Are a Victim of Police Misconduct

  • Note the names and badge numbers of the officers involved
  • Note any identifying markings on the police car
  • Note the location
  • Document the date and time of the event
  • Note any witnesses
  • File a complaint with the police department as soon as possible.

If you've been charged with criminal misconduct, seek advice from an attorney before filing a complaint against a police officer to prevent inadvertently waiving your rights.


Violations of TC 39-16-402 are Class A misdemeanors

Violations of TC 39-16-403 are Class E felonies. ( Section 40-35-111)

Note: Charges for official misconduct or oppression may be brought only by a district attorney indictment, but a person may pursue other criminal charges by affidavit of complaint.

Restitution for Crime Victims

Restitution may be paid to victims of a crime when ordered by a judge (Section 39-11-118)

Civil Damages (Section 29-39-102)

Statute of Limitations

Filing Criminal Charges

Civil Lawsuit Statute of Limitations

  • Personal injury or intentional tort is 1 year
  • Injury to personal property has a 3-year statute of limitations

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Police Misconduct in Tennessee

Contact a Tennessee Attorney

Police misconduct can result in serious injury. If you believe you are the victim of inappropriate police behavior that may be actionable, contact a Tennessee civil rights attorney today.

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