Wrongful Police Shootings - What the Law Says
Law Offices of David Drexler
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The law is very clear in how it treats police shootings that end in wrongful death or catastrophic injury.
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The U.S. Constitution protects Americans from unwarranted violence, including shootings, from police officers. The rules on when shootings overstep the law are clear.
The infamous Rodney King beating case (1991) was an example of where the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment affects how police treat suspects in a crime. Certainly, the police sometimes need to use batons, guns and Tasers to apprehend suspects to bring them before a court. But the police are human beings who often overstep the bounds of their authority.
For example, in 2012 an individual was shot dead in Anaheim after running from an approaching police officer. The victim was unarmed and not suspected of any particular crime, which led to community protests.
In large cities, like Los Angeles, so often are suspects shot and killed by police that some Los Angeles personal injury attorneys that practice constitutional law have added wrongful police shootings to their areas of practice. They call themselves “wrongful police shootings lawyers”.
A series of Supreme Court rulings before and since Rodney King have established how the 14th Amendment is interpreted:
What compelled the officer to shoot or otherwise use force on the individual? If a gun was fired, there needs to have been a good reason to do so, such as a crime suspect presenting a danger to the officer or others.
What connected the officer’s need to use force and the amount of force he or she actually used? It’s wrong, for example, when a suspected thief fleeing a crime scene is hit by a barrage of bullets when the suspect has no weapon, particularly if apprehension might occur by other means.
How injured (including fatal injuries) was the individual as a result of the application of force? A single bullet wound grazing the leg is considerable less injurious than multiple shots to the head and torso, leaving the person dead or permanently disabled.
Was forced applied in good faith or was it maliciously and sadistically shot with the intent to inflict harm? For example, bullets aimed at the legs to reduce a crime suspect's ability to run might seem reasonable, but multiple rounds of fire that kill or injure unnecessarily (e.g., at close range) suggest the officer might have overstepped his or her bounds of duty.
This last point, whether or not force was applied in "good faith," is of course very subjective. When shooting victims and their families seek recourse from the police in a lawsuit, the attorneys representing the family need to conduct an investigation with the help of ballistics and other experts to determine if due process was not served.
Contact a wrongful shooting lawyer if you or a loved one were the victim of an overzealous or perhaps malicious police officer.
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