Police put their lives on the line to protect the public. In order to perform their duties, they receive broad freedom to respond to threats with reasonable force. But that use of force isn’t unlimited.
When police use too much force or otherwise abuse their powers, their arrests may be illegal. And as the recent story of three Muncie officers charged with using excessive force illustrates, if the arrests were illegal, prosecutors may not be able to move forward with charges.
How do the courts define excessive force?
The Star Press reports that the Delaware County prosecutor’s office has had to review the cases that the officers’ excessive force may have tainted. As the county prosecutor noted, the use excessive force may “impair or even prohibit the state’s ability to proceed with certain cases.”
This means that those arrested—and who want to see justice delivered properly—will have a keen interest in whether the courts may find that the officers treated them with excessive force.
For guidance, they’ll turn to a 1989 Supreme Court case. That case defined the use of excessive force as a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights to reasonable search and seizure. And it centered the question on whether an officer’s use of force is “objectively reasonable” within the moment. That means:
- The court should judge the use of force from the perspective of a “reasonable officer”
- The question of what was reasonable should be rooted in the facts available to the officers at the time, including the severity of any crime involved, whether the suspect presented an immediate threat and whether the suspect was trying to flee or resist arrest
- Hindsight doesn’t apply
- The officer’s intentions don’t apply
As the Supreme Court noted, officers who use excessive force during their arrests are violating people’s Fourth Amendment rights. Experienced defense attorneys can challenge the legality of the arrest and may be able to get certain charges thrown out altogether.
Making sure the law works for everyone
The law doesn’t always favor law enforcement officials. The law may grant them a great deal of privilege, but it also places limits on their powers. When they overstep their powers, you deserve to hold them accountable. Just as the law empowers the police, it also empowers you to stand up for your rights.
At Kammen & Moudy, we understand how important it is to hold officers accountable to the law. Your constitutional rights exist for good reason, and our attorneys fight to uphold those rights and make sure you receive a fair shot at justice.