Can I Sue a Police Officer for Falsely Arresting Me?

Criminal Lawyer in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Being falsely accused of a crime can be terrifying, frustrating, and stressful. And in many ways, we hope that our system is designed to ensure that someone who is falsely accused of a crime will be able to avoid being charged with a crime due to good police work. But that doesn’t always happen. In fact, many times, the police just get it wrong. Sometimes they do this accidentally, and sometimes they do it maliciously. So, when the police get it wrong, what is the remedy? Can you sue a police officer for arresting you for a crime that you didn’t commit?

The answer, really, is that it depends.

The fact that a police officer arrests you for a crime that you didn’t commit is not, in and of itself, something that would permit you to sue a police officer for damages. Police officers receive a type of legal immunity from lawsuits called “qualified immunity.”

Qualified immunity shields police officers from damages for civil liability when they are acting in the performance of their jobs, and have not violated the clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of an individual. This immunity protects police officers from being sued by people that they harm unless they clearly violate that person’s constitutional rights – not that the police simply do a crappy job investigating a crime.

When the police commit a clear constitutional violation, however, a lawsuit under 42 USC 1983. This section of the United States Code provides for a civil cause of action against a police officer that has violated the constitutional rights of an individual.

The most common claims brought against police officers for constitutional violations are for the use of excessive or unreasonable force, malicious prosecution, and violations of the fourth amendment, including unreasonable seizures of their person or property.

If, in fact, a constitutional violation has occurred, the individual whose rights have been violated will be able to file suit against the police officer who committed that constitutional violation in either federal or state court. The individual can seek monetary damages against the police officer for the harm that occurred as a result of the violation.

One other benefit provided in the statute that authorizes these suits is that if the plaintiff is able to recover any amount of damages against the police officer, the police officer will also be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees. This can make filing these lawsuits against police officers easier for plaintiffs, because more attorneys are willing to take these cases on a contingency fee basis.

If you believe that your civil rights have been violated by a police officer, you should contact a criminal lawyer in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Blanchard Law who has experience in suing police officers for constitutional violations as soon as possible.

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