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3 Types of Police Misconduct that Violate Constitutional Rights


In many police misconduct cases, the victim files a lawsuit against the transgressing officers for a violation of constitutional rights. There is often a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Or in other cases, police actions could violate the right to liberty and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

While it is true that police officers generally enjoy immunity from liability in the performance of their duties, constitutional violations rise to another level. If police officer conduct violates constitutional rights, immunity can disappear. Then the victim can hold officers liable in court.

To understand how this process works, the following sections will provide an overview of three common types of police misconduct that violate constitutional rights: (1) False Arrest or Imprisonment, (2) Malicious Prosecution and (3) Excessive Force.

(1) False Arrest or Imprisonment

False arrest is the act of taking a person into custody without a legal reason to do so. False imprisonment is the act of confining a person without that person’s consent. Both false arrest and imprisonment violate the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search or seizure.

False arrest and imprisonment claims center on probable cause, which is a likelihood of criminal conduct. If the victim proves a lack of probable cause, then the police officers could be held liable in court. But if the police officers can demonstrate the existence of probable cause, then their actions likely fall short of false arrest or imprisonment.

(2) Malicious Prosecution

This type of constitutional violation alleges that police action intentionally and wrongfully initiated criminal proceedings against the victim. This type of action is a violation of liberty, due process and other Fourteenth Amendment rights. Additionally, malicious prosecution is only available to victims who prevail in the legal proceeding and avoid a conviction.

To prevail in a claim of malicious prosecution, the plaintiff-victim must show intentional and malicious conduct as well as an absence of probable cause. On the other hand, police officers can defend against a claim of malicious prosecution by demonstrating probable cause.

(3) Excessive Force

Excessive force refers to a situation where a police officer applies an unreasonable amount of force in the performance of official duties. This constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Whether a police officer’s use of force was reasonable or unreasonable depends largely on the underlying circumstances.

A police officer’s intent or state of mind does not factor into excessive force claims. The only question is whether the use of force was reasonable or unreasonable. That will determine whether a police faces liability for their actions.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

If you or a member of your family suffered harm from police misconduct, it is vital to seek legal advice from a proficient police misconduct lawyer. The lawyers at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland can assist you today.

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