A law enforcement officer’s use of unnecessary, excessive force is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Excessive force can take many forms, including the use of batons, tasers, pepper spray, canines, handcuffs, choke holds, hobbles, less-than-lethal firearms, and firearms. Make no mistake: when officer uses unnecessary force to apprehend or punish someone, it’s a form of police misconduct.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement from engaging in unreasonable searches and seizures. When police violate your Fourth Amendment rights it can be humiliating and traumatic. Illegal searches are far too common and can include warrantless blood draws, warrantless cellphone searches, warrantless home searches, illegal canine sniffs, and arbitrary stop and frisks.
Police cannot arrest you without probable cause. The Fourth Amendment requires that officers, when arresting someone, must be able to articulate specific facts that a particular person has committed a crime. If you’ve been held without probable cause, either in a cell or in handcuffs, you may have an illegal arrest claim.
Illegal Stop and Frisk
Illegal detentions and illegal pat-downs are no small thing, even if they happen quickly. The United States Supreme Court has said that a frisk “is a serious intrusion upon the sanctity of the person, which may inflict great indignity and arouse strong resentment, and it is not to be undertaken lightly.” The Fourth Amendment requires, to stop you on the street, that an officer to reasonably suspect that you’ve committed, are committing, or have committed a crime. And the Fourth Amendment requires, to frisk you, that the officer reasonably suspect that you’re presently armed and dangerous.
Illegal Blood Draw
Blood draws are searches under the Fourth Amendment. The police therefore need a lawful justification to draw your blood.
Illegal Home Entry
In the United States, the government cannot intrude in your home without a lawful reason to do so. Generally, this means they need to have your consent, approval from a judge, or some other very compelling reason. Our Supreme Court has called warrantless home entries a “chief evil” that the Fourth Amendment sought to protect against. Any non-consensual search by police can be a traumatic experience, especially where there is a heightened expectation of privacy such as in a person’s own home.
Police Dog Bite
Bites or injuries by police dogs can be a violation of your Fourth or Eighth Amendment rights and may constitute excessive force.
Police shootings may be violations of the Fourth Amendment. Cases involving an officer’s use of lethal force are important, difficult to litigate, and can be extremely complex. If you or a loved one has been shot by an officer, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Physical or Sexual Assault
Federal civil rights laws, including Title IX, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, or sexual coercion.
Racial or Gender Discrimination
Both federal law and the constitution prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex or race. This covers policies including dress codes, bag or locker searches, and access to programs.
Freedom of Speech
Violations of Your Right to Free Speech
The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, including not only speech but also expressive conduct, the right to assemble, the right to worship, and the right to petition the government. Police or other government retaliation against an individual for the exercise of their First Amendment rights is a blackletter constitutional violation.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means there cannot be a search of a person or their property without probable cause. Despite the clear protections from illegal searches provided by the Fourth Amendment, illegal non-consensual searches are all too common. Any non-consensual search can be a traumatic experience, especially where there is a heightened expectation of privacy such as in a person’s home or an invasive search within a person’s body.
Denial of Medical Care
Deaths caused by the denial of medical care while in jail or prison is a violation of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution protect individuals from excessive force, including anyone in jail or prison. Jail and prison staff must refrain from using excessive force and can be liable for the death of an inmate due to excessive force.
Jail or Prison Suicide
Failure to provide mental health treatment or administer medications for mental illness by jail or prison staff is a civil rights violation.
Failure to Protect
Not only do the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution protect incarcerated individuals from excessive force, they also require correctional staff to protect these individuals from attacks or violence from other inmates. Any individual in custody is unable to protect themselves, therefore, correctional staff take on that responsibility for them.
Denial of Medical Care
While incarcerated, individuals are unable to freely seek out medical care. The responsibility of providing medical care lies on the jail or prison staff. Examples of denial of medical care include not receiving treatment for physical injuries, diseases, or illness, failing to administer medication or denying certain medications, not providing mental health treatment, and not referring to specialty care for chronic or rare medical conditions.
The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution protect all individuals from excessive force, including anyone in jail or prison. Jail and prison staff must refrain from using excessive force and must protect any inmate from assault by another inmate.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) protects all individuals who are incarcerated from sexual abuse and assault by correctional staff. PREA requires every jail and prison to have a policy outlining their compliance, including how to report and respond to sexual abuse and assault claims. Sexual assault and/or abuse is incredibly traumatizing, especially when the assailant is someone responsible for your well-being and care.