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Police brutality vs. Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act

Mistreatment or brutality at the hands of a New York peace officer can injure twice. First, it may cause physical harm. Second, it damages the trust citizens have in our policing system.

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act is a federal statute that provides a mechanism for individuals to seek redress for civil rights violations, including police mistreatment. It can offer hope to those harmed by the improper actions of law enforcement.

What is prohibited under Section 1983?

The statute specifically targets misconduct by government officials, including police officers, who act “under color of” state law. This includes actions that deprive a person of constitutional rights, such as the right to be free from excessive force. It does not permit any action that infringes upon an individual’s rights as protected by the U.S. Constitution.

What remedies are available for victims?

Those harmed by police brutality can file a lawsuit under Section 1983 against the offending officer and potentially the officer’s employer. To succeed in a claim, you must:

  • Show that the officer was acting under the authority of state law at the time of the incident.
  • Demonstrate that their actions resulted in the deprivation of your constitutional rights.

A common defense against Section 1983 claims is qualified immunity, which is a doctrine that protects officers from liability in certain circumstances.  Unfortunately, this principle frequently obstructs the path to justice for those harmed by trusted public servants like the police.

Even so, you have a chance for justice. A strong case supported by reliable documentation, credible witness statements and expert testimony may disprove the defense. Having experienced legal guidance can help you build such a case.