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Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Washington

Police officers are meant to protect the residents of the communities they serve. Considering the importance and difficulty of their job, police officers are given fairly broad power to carry out their duties. Unfortunately, there are some bad apples that abuse that power and engage in misconduct.

The term "police misconduct" covers a wide range of unlawful activity. The use of excessive force is probably the most alarming and widely covered type of misconduct as it can result in serious injuries or even death. Other types of misconduct include unlawful searches and seizures, wrongful imprisonment, and false arrest.

It's important to understand, however, that the circumstances surrounding each interaction between a civilian and a police officer play a large role in determining whether the officer was guilty of misconduct. For example, if a suspect resisted arrest, it may justify the level of force used by the police.

Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Washington: An Overview

When researching the law, reading an overview of complex statutes (laws) can be very helpful and can save you time. In the chart below, we've prepared an overview of police misconduct laws and claims in Washington to help guide your research. For more detailed information, please click on the links for the relevant statutes.


Washington Revised Code:

Official Misconduct

It's official misconduct for a public servant, with the intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a lawful right or privilege, to intentionally:

  • Commit an unauthorized act under color of law; or
  • Refrain from performing a duty imposed on them by law.

Official misconduct is a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail and/or fines of up to $5,000.

When a Police Officer May Make an Arrest Without a Warrant

A police officer may make an arrest without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe a person has committed or is committing a felony. A police officer can also make an arrest without a warrant if a person commits a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor in the officer's presence unless an exception applies.

When a Police Officer May Use Force

A police officer may use "all necessary means" to make an arrest if the officer gives notice of their intention to arrest and the suspect flees or forcibly resists.

Related Statute(s)

Washington Revised Code, Title 10. Criminal Procedure

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.

Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Washington: Related Resources

If you'd like additional information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links listed below.

Get Legal Help with Your Police Misconduct Claims in Washington

Considering the amount of power and authority provided to police officers, it can be hard to tell if they're acting within the bounds of the law. If you feel that you've been the victim of police misconduct, it's a good idea to speak with a local personal injury attorney who will be familiar with police misconduct laws and claims in Washington.

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