CIVIL RIGHTS

Civil Rights claims are an important part of our legal system. They provide a balance between the duty of law enforcement to uphold the laws and the rights of individuals to be free from police misconduct. Yet cases against police officers and other government officials can be difficult. Officers may be immune from suit, even though an individual feels he or she was mistreated.

 

You have the right to file a lawsuit when you have been deprived of your Constitutional or statutory civil-rights when the government or its officials act in a way that violates the rights guaranteed to you by our United States Constitutional and recognized by the laws in our statutes. These rights can include freedom from wrongful seizure/arrest or excessive force by law enforcement officers, "police brutality", or the right to freedom of speech without government retaliation. This also includes individuals who may be incarcerated in a county jail or a state correctional facility. This may be a deprivation of a guaranteed right or an indifference to the medical or health needs of an arrested person or an inmate. 

 

False Arrest

Persons bringing this claim assert that the police violated their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. This claim is not an appropriate claim if the officer had “probable cause” to believe the individual had committed a crime. Police can arrest a person without a warrant if a crime is committed in their presence. Iowa allows for warrantless arrests on any charge, so long as it is supported by probable cause. 

 

Even if the information the officer later relied upon later turns out to be false, the officer is not liable if he or she believed it was accurate at the time of the arrest. If you believe the officer lacked probable cause to arrest, you may be able to bring a claim against the officer. 

 

Excessive Force

Excessive force claims receive the most publicity, perhaps because the results of excessive force seem the most outrageous, involving serious physical injury or death. Whether the officer’s use of force was reasonable depends on the surrounding facts and circumstances. The officer’s intentions or motivations are generally not important. If the amount of force was reasonable, it does not matter that the officer had bad intentions. However, if the amount of force was entirely unreasonable, it does not matter how good the officer’s intentions were. 

 

Failure to Intervene

Officers have a duty to protect individuals from constitutional violations by fellow officers. Therefore an officer who witnesses a fellow officer violating an individuals’ constitutional rights may be liable to the victim for failing to intervene. 

 

Cruel and Unusual Punishment:

For individuals currently incarcerated, there are still protections under the Eighth Amendment that jail and prison officials must protect the persons while they are in their care. The state/county facility takes on responsibility by taking custody of an individual. If an individual is injured while in jail or prison, the government is required to ensure the individual receives adequate medical care. Ironically, persons in prison/jail are the only individuals in America with a constitutional right to health care.

 

First Amendment Claims:

The First Amendment provides a guarantee that all persons have the right to freedom of expression and speech. These cases include, recording or filming police officers, the right to protest or criticize the government (any government, federal, state, city, county, etc.), and other protected acts. 

 

If you have been wronged and are the subject to any of the above mentioned, or other misconduct or abuse by a government official, please call our office or email under the “Contact Us” link, with a brief description of your case, and we will set up a consultation as soon as we are able. 

“Americans have a right to presumed innocence, making the idea of the government’s seizing property without due process incompatible with the Constitution and our founding principles.”
Justice Clarence Thomas
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