CanI suea police department for personal injuries?

UPDATED: Mar 21, 2011

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CanI suea police department for personal injuries?

I was leaving a nightclub Sunday morning between 1:30 am and 2:30 am and was arrested. Slightly intoxicated, I had parked at the gas station to get gas and was approached by 3 officers demanding that I step out the car. I didn’t refuse but when I questioned why 1 officer proceeded to open the driver side door and aggressively pulled me out of the driver seat, bent my arms backwards, and shoved my face into the ground. When I was then thrown against the cop car I asked to be read my rights. They refused to do so or tell me why I was being detained. I wasn’t booked when I arrived at the maximum security prison. They were fully aware of my physical condition and pain. I have pictures to confirm my abuse. Can I press charges?

Asked on March 21, 2011 under Personal Injury, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You actually ask two different questions:

1) Can you sue the police for personal injuries? Possibly, IF you can show that the use of force against you was inappropriate--e.g. it went against what was required by the circumstances and against police training. Since police tend to be sympathetic parties in a lawsuit--and since courts and juries recognize that they need discretion--this is difficult to do; you need to typically show not just that it may have been somewhat inappropriate, but that is was definitely beyond what is reasonable or acceptable. Also, you can only recover an amount of money commensurate with your injuries, so if you didn't incur large medical costs or suffer significant and long-lasting pain or disability, it's not worth suing.

2) Can you press charges? Only if the conduct was actually criminal, which requires criminal intent--a desire to inflict unlawful injury. Since you were being arrested, it is very unlikely that it would be concluded that the police, even if they did use somewhat more force than appropriate, were engaged in a criminal or unlawful assault.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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