Month: June 2020

Having an understanding of ways citizens can fight back when their rights have been violated by law enforcement officers is crucial. Being aware of police misconduct laws helps citizens know when and how they can make a legal claim of unnecessary use of excessive force against police officers. These claims would be considered civil claims, as opposed to criminal claims, in an effort to pursue justice against an officer if they have mistreated an individual or mishandled a situation using excessive force more than is legally justified.

What determines excessive force in an arrest?

The circumstances of an arrest determine whether or not an individual is able to file for excessive use of force against an officer. When reflecting on the circumstances of the arrest, there are two main things to consider: Did the officer have probable cause to make an arrest for a criminal offense? If they did have probable cause, how did the officer use force to make the arrest?

While officers do have the right to use a reasonable amount of force while making an arrest, anything that might exceed what is considered reasonable could possibly prompt a claim against an officer. Not only does this include any sort of physical harm, but also potentially any mental or emotional harm. These situations might pose an individual the opportunity to file a claim against the District of Columbia.

How to file a federal claim of excessive force

When filing for a claim, there are two main routes to potentially pursue. The first of which is making a federal claim against an officer for the use of excessive force. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. If the officer violated any constitutional rights. This could be either because the officer lacked probable cause to make the arrest, or that they used more force than they had to in order to make the arrest. On the other hand, the individual may also be able to make some common law claims against the officer including assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, etc. These claims against the officer would be made through the District of Columbia, on behalf of the actions of the officer.

This process has time limits if you intend to file a complaint with the city. First and foremost, you must notify the city within 180 days of the incident if you intend to sue, based on the events that took place during an arrest. In doing so, you can send a letter to the mayor’s office here. This letter should describe the circumstances surrounding your case, the date that it occurred, and any injuries that you suffered. This letter will put the city on notice that you intend to file a lawsuit in the future.

Furthermore, if you intend to make any common law claims, your statute of limitations is one year for claims such as assault and battery, false arrest, or false imprisonment. In other words, an individual has one year to file a complaint in court proceeding from the date the incident occurred.

If you choose to make a federal claim, the constitutional violations against the officer has a statute of limitations of three years, which gives you more time to do so. However, it is a safer bet to make all possible claims when drafting a complaint and when a complaint is filed. Ideally, the complaint should be filed within a year of its occurrence.

The doctrine of “qualified immunity,” was originally created to protect law enforcement officers from tedious lawsuits that might occur as a result of “split-second decisions” they make on the job. This protection has led to a culture of injustice when citizens try to fight back against the system. The issue with the doctrine is that it relies on the idea that there must be a “clearly established” precedent to act as a model for officers to follow. If there is no established precedent of a situation, officers often are able to get away with illegal and harmful conduct. This has led to unnecessary violence, murders of many innocent civilians, and far too many instances of police brutality. There is currently an effort among the Supreme Court to move towards abolishing qualified immunity and how it plays a role in the criminal justice system today.

You can fight back if you have been mistreated by law enforcement, even if they are still currently protected by qualified immunity. It is important to note that if you are charged with criminal misconduct, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from a defense attorney prior to filing a complaint with the city or against the officer. This will ensure that your rights remain protected while charges are pending.

For more information regarding excessive force claims or misconduct against a police officer, contact Bruckheim & Patel for a free confidential evaluation.

Prisons across the country have begun releasing non-violent offenders due to concerns surrounding the risk factors of COVID-19. In an effort to protect overall public safety, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has examined the possible dangers incarcerated individuals might face. Measures such as social distancing, are nearly impossible to enforce in prison systems. This issue paired with the virus’ ability to spread quickly among people poses a life-threatening situation to many.

Reviews Started as Early as March

As early as March this year, the BOP began to review the cases of non-violent offenders, to consider home confinement as an alternative to incarceration. Across the country, thousands of incarcerated persons who have been deemed to be at high risk for COVID-19 have been placed in home confinement and released from prison. As of April 15, the population of jails in Washington, D.C. has decreased 21.8%. Likewise, Maryland government officials have continuously been urging the state to identify incarcerated persons at risk and consider their release from prison.

Health Concern’s Trump High Profile Rulings

One high profile case that has been highlighted in the news media is that of President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has recently been released from federal prison. Cohen has been imprisoned in NY for the past year and the concerns for his safety due to COVID has led to this decision. As a result, the completion of his sentence, set to end in November 2021, will take place from the comfort of his own home.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign Chairman, has also been released to home confinement. Manafort’s  criminal defense attorneys requested his release due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19. Manafort was convicted of charges involving bank and tax fraud and was sentenced to 7.5 years in March 2019. Previously serving his term in PA, Manafort, 71, has various health concerns that compromise his safety such as high blood pressure and respiratory conditions that make him vulnerable to COVID-19. At the time of his release, there were no reported cases of COVID-19 at the prison Manafort occupied, but his attorneys argued that to wait for a reported case would put Manafort in a potentially life-threatening position.

In February this year, Roger Stone had been sentenced to 40 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release. Stone had been found guilty of obstructing investigations related to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Stone’s attorney was informed that the date his sentence was set to begin, originally at the end of April, was pushed back 30 days by the BOP. As of April, Stone’s attorneys argued for a new trial due to juror bias which was ultimately dismissed. Stone has publicly spoken out about his frustration with being incarcerated during the pandemic, which could ultimately be life-threatening as Stone is 67 with various health issues.

Unfortunately, the presence of COVID-19 has begun to spread throughout prisons nationally at high rates. There have been at least 29,251 reported cases of COVID-19 among incarcerated persons as of the week of May 20, 2020. Releasing individuals who do not pose a great threat to the public into home confinement is seemingly the right move in order to protect the most lives.

Protests have spread across the country in response to ongoing police brutality against the Black community, led by the Black Lives Black Lives Matter, DCMatter movement. 

George Floyd, 46, was killed on May 26, just last week, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin. The video footage of Mr. Floyd’s death displayed Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd for almost 9 minutes, while Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe. Charges have been filed against Chauvin, including third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

However, the death of George Floyd is not the singular reason for these protests, but the spark that ignited the flame of the movement. 

On February 23, earlier this year, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was fatally shot by two men in Brunswick, Georgia, on his afternoon jog. They claimed to have believed he was a suspect for a series of local break-ins, which lacked any sufficient probable cause. Later, a video of the incident surfaced online and drew public outrage. 

Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed by Louisville PD on March 13. Officers entered her home past midnight with a “no-knock” warrant where she was met with at least 8 gunshot wounds. The FBI is currently investigating the incident, and officers have not been charged as of yet. 

Tony McDade, a black transgender man, was shot and killed on May 27, 2020, by officers in Tallahassee, Florida. 

The list is long and continues to grow. 

Peaceful Protest DCSome are protesting not only because of the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement but because of the socioeconomic inequality and disparities cultivated by the American government and the criminal justice system. A system capable of change but continuing to protect the oppressors over the oppressed. 

The protests began about a week ago, immediately after the death of George Floyd. The majority of protests have turned violent due to the fact that they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, concussion grenades, and helicopters by police and law enforcement agencies. 

President Trump has made it clear that he intends to respond to protests with a heavy military presence despite the First Amendment rights. Peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square Park, Washington, DC, were attacked by law enforcement to clear the area, so President Trump could take a picture holding a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. St. John’s had caught fire the previous nights amidst protests. The Bishop for the Church, the Right Rev. Mariann Mudde, condemned Trump for using the Church and teargassing peaceful protesters for a photo op. 

With an increase in militarized policing, there have been many arrests made of those protesting. If arrested, here are important guidelines to abide by:

● Call a lawyer ASAP. 

● Invoke your right to remain silent. 

● Make sure friends take down the names and contact information of potential witnesses around you. 

● Write a number and name down on hand in case you are arrested, they will take your phone away.

Those who support the cause but are unable to protest have turned to signing petitionscalling government officials

and donating if they are able to.

Contact Bruckheim & Patel if someone is arrested in the process of a peaceful protest exercising their first amendment rights. Stay safe, DC, and protects your rights! 

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