The term “police brutality” refers to the misuse of authority and excessive force by a police officer when interacting with civilians. This type of abuse can range from verbal abuse and psychological intimidation to physical aggression and death. If you have been accused of abusing your power, a Santa Ana police brutality lawyer can help investigate the details of your case and defend your rights.
When these accusations are proven to be true, it can undermine the trusting relationship that should exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. However, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, including police officers.
At the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, our entire firm was designed to ensure that no one is able to take advantage of another’s rights under the law. This extends to the law enforcement officers of Santa Ana, in which we have become skilled in navigating the intricacies of a police brutality accusation.
Our team can ensure that every piece of evidence is carefully investigated and used to prove your innocence or reduce a sentence, when appropriate. Connect with us today if you are facing these accusations and need a legal ally to help support your case.
There are several situations that can lead to accusations of police brutality:
When officers use excessive physical force against someone, this could be considered physical violence. Some examples of physical violence could be punching, kicking, or throwing individuals around when they are already contained. These actions can sometimes result in life-threatening injuries. While a certain level of physical effort is expected during an arrest or while trying to control a crowd, it is only legally allowed when necessary and proportionate to the level of threat that an officer is facing.
Like physical violence, scenarios of excessive force are found when an officer has engaged in a level of force that is not necessary for any given situation. This could include putting someone in a chokehold when they were already cooperating with instructions. It could also involve deploying weapons, like tasers and pepper spray, when there is no active threat to their own safety.
An officer is only allowed to fatally shoot a target if they are trying to stop someone from actively taking the lives of others, such as mass shooters. Anytime there is a fatal shooting by a police officer, even if it was seemingly justified, it will be formally investigated to ensure that the judgment of the response was appropriate for the situation. These scenarios are some of the most scrutinized cases by the public, especially when the individual killed was unarmed.
Sometimes, officers are accused of exploiting their authority to commit acts of sexual harassment, assault, or even rape. This is another example of an abuse of power that violates an individual’s legal rights and bodily autonomy. Because these acts can cause significant psychological trauma to victims, there are strict regulations in place to deter this behavior from happening in the first place and hold violators accountable.
Police officers are not allowed to intimidate or engage in verbal threats to get individuals to comply with their demands. For example, this line is sometimes overstepped during interrogations when an officer gets frustrated that someone is not answering their questions. These types of tactics can leave lasting mental and emotional scars on an individual, which could open an opportunity for them to sue an officer back and hold them accountable for the unlawful behavior.
It is illegal to target anyone as a possible perpetrator of a crime solely based on their race or ethnicity. This includes stopping someone to ask questions or searching their property without any objective evidence that they were engaged in wrongdoing. This type of behavior fuels distrust and resentment within communities, which is why police departments must have strict policies against racial profiling and discrimination.
If there is any evidence that an officer arrested someone without sufficient evidence or justification, they could be held accountable for unlawful detention. This is especially true if it was found that an officer was purposefully ignoring gaps in evidence that could have possibly exonerated an individual.
These instances can lead to lengthy legal battles, as the victim may try to hold the officer liable for the damage to their reputation. They may also seek compensation for the psychological distress that occurred as a result of their unlawful detainment.
If an officer is being accused of planting evidence, this typically means that they may have deliberately placed incriminating evidence on a person or at a crime scene. This is done to create the illusion that the individual is responsible for a crime. Planting evidence is a complete abuse of power that will be met with stiff punishments, including being removed from the force.
Before an officer is able to search a home or vehicle, they must have probable cause and obtain all the required warrants for permission to begin the search. If these warrants are not obtained beforehand, the act could be considered an unlawful search, which would dismiss any evidence collected from being used in court. This can put a case in jeopardy by no longer having the proof needed to link an individual to a crime.
Any officers caught entering a property and collecting items without approval will be held accountable for violating these well-established rules of the job.
These are some of the many situations that could be considered police brutality. If you believe that you have been unfairly accused of committing any of these crimes, connect with a policy misconduct attorney immediately to begin working on your defense strategy.
For a defense lawyer to effectively represent clients in brutality cases, the quality of evidence presented in court must be able to prove their innocence. Some of the most used pieces of evidence in these types of cases include:
In the era of technology, lawyers have access to more sources of evidence than ever before. Recordings from body cams, dash cams, or even a video taken on a smartphone by a bystander can all be critical pieces of evidence to help a judge and jury determine what happened during the incident. This can help provide a clear and indisputable account of the events that may contradict other claims of misconduct.
Any individual who saw the chain of events unfold in front of their own eyes can offer an unbiased account of what happened. Within these testimonies, witnesses can detail the different behaviors and actions they witnessed of both the police officer in question and the individual accusing them of misconduct.
The more credible a witness turns out to be, the more valuable their story of events is. For example, an investigation reveals that a witness is not related to either individual in the case and has no incentive to support either outcome. Their testimony is likely to hold more weight in court over those where a conflict of interest could exist.
Having medical documentation of any injuries that occurred from the incident can help show proof that some level of harm was suffered. These types of records can detail the extent and timing of the injuries. If there are any discrepancies between the prosecution’s argument and the medical records of their client, it can weaken their position and benefit the defense.
If there is any question about whether an officer’s level of force was appropriate or not for a contested situation, bringing in a professional who specializes in police procedures and behavior could offer additional insights to help reach a verdict.
These types of professionals will analyze exactly what took place and how an officer should ordinarily respond in that situation. They will then compare that conclusion with the details of what is alleged to have happened. Finally, they will share their opinion on whether the actions of the officer were justified or not.
Whenever an officer is accused of engaging in misconduct, investigators will look into their work history to see if there are any other documented complaints, reprimands, or instances of similar conduct. If there is no other evidence of an established pattern of behavior, this can help support a defense position of innocence.
Some of the least disputable evidence that exists today is forensic evidence. This could include DNA, a blood spatter analysis, or even a look into the ballistic trajectory in a shooting incident. The results of any of these could scientifically counter or support any claims of what happened at the scene of the alleged crime. Because forensic evidence is often considered one of the most objective pieces of evidence that can be collected, it is perceived as highly credible to any judge or jury.
A critical aspect of using evidence is that it must be collected legally. Be sure to coordinate with your defense attorney and police department to ensure that none of the evidence you want to use in your case is unlawfully obtained.
There are several defenses against claims of police brutality. Some of these include the following:
When a defense attorney is able to see the evidence that the opposing counsel chooses to use, they can scrutinize the integrity of each item. For example, they may argue that a certain video lacks context or could have been unlawfully edited. They may also challenge the credibility of any witnesses, especially if they are able to find any ambiguities in their story or if there is a noticeable conflict of interest.
Sometimes, an officer will take the position that they were acting in self-defense or in the defense of others around them. For this position to hold up in court, evidence needs to suggest that:
While police officers are allowed to use force, it can cross into unjust police violence if it is proven that an officer acted beyond what was considered necessary for the situation.
To make the case that the officer acted in proportion to the alleged threat, they will need to help everyone understand their thought process and what their intentions were throughout every moment of the incident. Bringing in an unbiased, third-party professional to assess their explanation of their actions can be an extra layer of help when determining if the force was reasonable or not.
A solid defense strategy can also include evidence that an officer followed all proper procedures and protocols during the entirety of the incident. This can help demonstrate an officer’s responsibility and commitment to their role outside of the isolated incident that is the subject of the case. It can also help show that an officer was not acting out of malice or was on a mission to commit harm on their shift that day.
Sometimes, an officer does not make their own decisions. Instead, they take orders from one of their leaders. In these situations, an officer can try to defend their innocence by stating that they would not have acted in a certain way independently. Rather, they only did so in this incident because they were taking direct orders to do so. This is considered a chain of command defense, and it can help everyone consider the larger situation during the alleged police brutality incident.
Officers are sometimes required to use different weapons or tools in situations where force may be necessary. In these instances, an officer may hold the position that the equipment did not operate in the way that it was designed to. For example, a Taser may have accidentally deployed faster or more intensely than the officer thought it should. This can help refocus blame from the officer to the equipment manufacturer.
A: When an officer is accused of engaging in police brutality, they should immediately seek legal counsel who has experience dealing with these types of cases. In these moments, it’s important to not make any public statements or discuss what happened with any family, friends, or colleagues until advised by an attorney.
Any evidence that can help prove innocence needs to be properly collected, documented, and stored under the direction of an attorney to ensure that it will all be admissible in court. It’s also recommended that officers fully cooperate with any internal investigations and follow all procedures. This can help protect their rights and prevent any other allegations from arising.
A: There is the possibility that an officer can be held personally liable in civil cases if it is proven that they violated an individual’s civil rights. While officers are granted ‘qualified immunity’ that protects them, in some instances, from personal liability, it is not a guaranteed protection if there is evidence that the officer violated clearly established procedures.
This is where collecting evidence to support the notion that an officer acted reasonably and within procedure during the incident can help to prove their innocence. Having a defense attorney can be crucial to better understand the complexities of qualified immunity and how that might connect to the current case.
A: There are a few different tactics that a defense attorney can use to help manage the public perception of their client and the details of the case. For example, they could request a change of venue to avoid a jury that may be biased. They might also request a gag order to limit how much the media is able to learn and report on.
When appropriate, a defense attorney can emphasize an officer’s positive service record. They may also engage in community outreach initiatives once an innocent verdict is reached to help make the community aware of the case’s outcome. Other forms of strategic communication, such as press releases or public statements, can also help control the public story and ensure that everyone has access to the facts of the case.
A: Once officers were required to wear body cameras during their shifts, it has had a major influence on how well a court can understand exactly what happened during a specific incident.
In some cases, body camera footage has revealed true instances of police brutality. However, it has also been critical to help exonerate officers who were inaccurately accused of using excessive force. Overall, the footage from any body camera will be used in every case that has it, and it will likely contribute to the final verdict.
If you are a police officer who has been accused of using excessive force or faces any other criminal charges, contact the police misconduct attorney today at the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC. For years, we have been helping officers in Santa Ana fight against false accusations. We would be honored to learn more about your case and share how we can protect your rights throughout the entire process.