Ron Poliquin, DoverLawOffice.com your Dover Employment and Civil Rights Attorney,
We are here to talk about some hot topics that mainly involve police misconduct. That was a hot video that we released as far as talking about bad cops. Recently there was a decision that came out by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, saying flipping the bird, yes giving a middle finger to the police is protected by the First Amendment. Although I wouldn't recommend it, they decided it was protected by the First Amendment.
In this case, it is a civil lawsuit of an individual suing a police officer individually. Basically, what happened is a police officer in Michigan pulls over a driver, cuts the driver break by not giving him or her a speeding ticket. As the police officer is driving away, the individual gives the officer the middle finger. Okay, the police officer pulls this person over again and actually punishes that person for the middle finger by raising the ticket to a speeding ticket, the harsher speeding ticket.
So, what happened in this case though is that the court said the officer could not do that. That could in fact fringe on the driver so the defendants right to be free from unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment as well as her free speech rights under the First Amendment. The court decided that any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment. So, there was clearly no basis for the officer to arrest this driver a second time just solely based on the middle finger.
I'm going to give you a couple of examples on police misconduct that could be civil lawsuits:
Excessive Force is when officers use of force is unreasonable. Whether the use of force would be unreasonable depends on the surrounding facts and circumstances of the case on whether it's excessive force. If the amount of force was reasonable it doesn't matter what the officer’s intentions were. But the reverse is also true if the officer had good intentions, but the use is unreasonable the excess excessive force claim will not be dismissed. So, excessive force means that an officer cannot use force beyond what is necessary to detain the defendant.
False Arrest is basically to be able to prevail on a false arrest claim the victim must show that the arresting officer lacked probable cause. That is facts sufficient to cause a reasonable person to believe that crime had occurred. It is not enough for the facts to be simply incorrect. Even if the officer relied upon facts which later turns out to be false, the officers not liable if he believed those facts were, in fact, accurate at the time.
Malicious Prosecution is basically when a claim asserts that the officer wrongly deprived the victim of the Fourteenth Amendment Right to Liberty. To win on this type of claim you must prove four things.
- the defendant police officer commenced a criminal proceeding.
- the preceding ended in the victim’s favor, usually, there's no conviction or it gets dismissed.
- this is the most important one, that there was no probable cause.
- that the proceeding was brought with malice towards the victim.
Usually, what happens in these types of claims, are going to have to show that there's some kind of falsehood. Either that the police officer made up facts for an arrest or that he left out facts in order to arrest and provide prosecution in his case. In any case against a police officer, you must overcome the qualified immunity defense. Meaning in order to win a civil rights claim, an individual bringing a police misconduct claim must prove the actions of the police exceeded reasonable bounds and fringed the victim’s constitutional rights and produce some injury or damages.
These lawsuits can be very expensive, and they can be very hard to prove. In order for you to prove them, you're probably going to need the help of an experienced attorney. So, if you want to get your case evaluated, if you think you've been a victim of police misconduct either excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution or maybe there's something else we're not talking, please see in an experienced attorney. Thank you for your time. Ron Poliquin DoverLawOffice.com