The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

The Baez Law Firm | San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys
San Antonio Lawyers and Attorneys

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 4th Amendment and Excessive Force: A case that helps our clients!

The threshold to overcome by Plaintiffs in civil actions against Police Officers for "excessive force" is that, the force utilized on the date in question has to be excessive and not reasonable under the circumstances.

In all cases, the "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split–second judgments–in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly revolving–about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. The "reasonableness" inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.

This case bellow has been used by our law firm to time and time again to help our client's cases in federal court against police officers who used "excessive force." This is a 5th Circuit case.

Flores v. City of Palacios, 381 F.3d 391 (5th Cir. 2004)

 A police officer sought to detain a sixteen (16) year old woman because she was parked on the wrong side of the road and because, when he shined a spotlight on her car, several people fled from the vicinity. The woman did not respond to the officer’s repeated commands that she stop and instead drove away. The officer shot her car to prevent her escape. The officer’s shot entered the car’s bumper just above the tailpipe and ultimately lodged in the back of the muffler. The minor suffered no immediate physical injury, though her car was damaged.

When the woman stopped, the officer arrested her for evading detention. It was determined that the sixteen years old was in violation of a weeknight curfew for minors. Later investigation revealed alcohol in the area surrounding where the car was parked, though no evidence suggested she had been drinking. The woman sued the officer and the city pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming excessive use of force.

On appeal, the court held that the district court properly denied summary judgment on the excessive force claim. The officer used physical force by shooting at her car, and the termination of her freedom of movement was accomplished by the shot to her car. The suspect’s perception of her detention is not considered when it is accomplished by means of physical force. It was clearly established that shooting toward a person is a use of physical force. It was also clearly established that a use of physical force that succeeds in stopping a fleeing suspect constitutes a seizure. It was clearly established that stopping a moving car by intentionally shooting it constitutes a seizure.

It was clearly established at the time that psychological injuries can be sufficient to state a 4th Amendment excessive force claim. The officer was on notice that using force carrying with it a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm is "deadly force." The officer was also on notice that deadly force would only be justified by a reasonable belief that he or the public was in imminent danger. The officer reasonably should have known that his action caused a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm. As such, the officer is not protected by qualified immunity as to the minor’s Fourth Amendment excessive force claim.

Police Officers should not be deterred from using force, if necessary, while effectuating an arrest, but only when–the force utilized–is "objectively reasonable" under the circumstances and not "excessive." It is the burden of the Plaintiff to prove and show that the Police Officer was not entitled to Qualified Immunity on the particular date.

If you, or someone you know has been injured by a police officer, and you believe that the force was excessive give us a call (210) 979-9777. The Baez Law Firm has been helping people with their police brutality cases and has been successful in bringing great results.

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Find Personal Injury Trial Lawyers that will treat you with dignity and respect. The Baez Law Firm, P.C. is dedicated to help those less fortunate. Our San Antonio Lawyers also handle family law, criminal defense, business law, immigration, social security disability, patent law, trade marks and much more. We are professionals that care about your legal needs. Our motto is simple: “Minimizing Legal Worries!”℠ Visit us at http://www.thebaezlawfirm.com or call us (210) 979-9777. Have a blessed day!

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