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Excessive Force Under Federal and California Law


The Federal Civil Rights Act

Most police excessive force cases allege a violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The elements are: (1) A “person” acting under color of State law and (2) causing another person to be deprived of a federally guaranteed right.

Most cases are based on deprivations of Fourth-Amendment rights. People have the right to be free from unreasonable and excessive force by the Police under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The prevailing plaintiff is entitled to compensatory damages, punitive damages against the individual defendants (but not public entities, which are immune from punitives), and attorneys’ fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

A § 1983 claim can be filed in state or federal court.

Monell Liability

Monell liability provides that a police department is liable for the violation of Plaintiff’s civil rights caused by a policy, procedure, practice or custom. See Monell v. New York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978).

To establish a Monell violation, California Police Abuse Lawyers review prior incidents of the department, training records, and policies and procedures for use of force.

The California Civil Rights Act.

Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1 is the California analogue of § 1983. It is sometimes referred to as “The Bane Act,” or “The Unruh Act.” § 52.1 covers violations of federal and state rights under color of state law, regardless of racial animus. Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 32 Cal. 4th 820, 11 Cal. Rptr. 3d 692 (2004).

There are several advantages to § 52.1. Police agencies are subject to vicarious liability under Cal. Gov’t Code § 815.2(a). Additionally, qualified immunity does not apply. Statutory damages are available as well as attorney fees and a multiplier.

California State Tort Causes of Action

California Police Abuse Lawyers typically file state law tort claims against the officers that used excessive force as well as those that failed to intervene to prevent the abuses of the Plaintiff. Complaints allege assault, battery, negligence and false imprisonment. These claims are also not subject to qualified immunity.

If you or a loved one was injured by the police in California contact Police abuse attorney Scott D. Hughes for a free consultation.

Scott D. Hughes is a California civil rights attorney practicing in State and Federal Court.

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