Police Brutality, Excessive Force, and Cruel and Unusual Punishment Claims in Madison, Jefferson & Beyond

The United States grants certain inalienable rights to every individual. Unfortunately, many people have their civil rights violated every day by way of police brutality, excessive force, and cruel and unusual punishment. Not only are these matters an injustice, but many victims face serious injuries and emotional hardship as a result of a governmental entity’s wrongdoing.

Officers who commit such wrongful acts may face criminal penalties, such as jail or prison time, fines, administrative consequences, and other disciplinary actions. But their victims have the right to seek financial compensation for injuries and damages they endure as a result of having their rights violated.

If this has happened to you or someone close to you, know that you deserve justice. At LawtonCates, we are committed to helping individuals go up against police officers, law enforcement agencies, and others who seek to take advantage of those with less power. Our attorneys know how to even the playing field, and we are ready to fight tirelessly for you and your family. We bring a commitment to our clients that is unmatched by any other firm.

Contact us online or call (608) 282-6200 to schedule a free, private consultation with a member of our team.

What Are the Effects of Police Brutality and Related Civil Rights Violations?

Victims of police brutality and excessive force are often left with lasting scars. Physically, they suffer from serious injuries like broken bones, head trauma, and internal damage. But the psychological impact is equally damaging. Effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and constant fear of law enforcement cause major disruption to a person’s life.

By filing a civil rights violation lawsuit against the at-fault party, you can seek monetary relief for your:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering

How Can I Prove a Police Brutality or Other Severe-Injury Civil Rights Claim?

As a rule, police officers may use reasonable force in order to subdue a criminal suspect and control them. But the key word here is “reasonable,” and actions that would rise to the level of excessive force are not reasonable. They can cause the person being arrested to be seriously injured, permanently scarred or disfigured, or even die.

Some of the most difficult claims to pursue involve police brutality, excessive force, and cruel and unusual punishment. That’s because law enforcement agencies and their officers have many legal immunities, such as qualified immunity and sovereign immunity. The law allows for these immunities as a means of ensuring that officers won’t worry about facing a civil lawsuit while reasonably performing their duties. Yet, sovereign or qualified immunity should not protect an officer who intended to violate or recklessly violated your civil or constitutional rights.

When you turn to LawtonCates, our lawyers will work to craft a compelling argument that an officer or law enforcement agency should be held liable to compensate you for your severe injuries and losses. We do this by relying on such evidence as:

  • Police dashboard footage
  • Officer bodycam footage
  • Bystander cell phone video footage
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Police reports and records, such as arrest reports, use-of-force reports, or internal investigation records
  • Photos of visible serious injuries you suffered
  • Medical records from treatment for your severe injuries
  • Employment and disciplinary records of the officer(s) involved in the misconduct or brutality

What Are Police Brutality and Use of Excessive Force?

When an officer is accused of police brutality or using excessive force, it means that they are applying force beyond what is reasonably believed to be necessary in order to gain compliance from a criminal suspect in a given incident.

Examples of excessive force include:

  • Applying physical force against a suspect who is already in custody and is not resisting arrest
  • Using a baton, Taser, chemical spray, neck restraint, or another instrument against a person who does not have a weapon
  • Use of force to intimidate a suspect into giving a statement

The Fourth Amendment is meant to protect U.S. citizens against unreasonable search and seizure and requires probable cause. When law enforcement uses excessive force, that is considered an unreasonable seizure.

When determining whether an officer used excessive force or was involved in police brutality, the court must use the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, lacking the benefit of hindsight. In doing so, the court will analyze such factors as:

  • How severe the underlying crime or circumstances were
  • Whether there was an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others
  • Whether the suspect actively resisted arrest or made an attempt to flee
  • Whether the police officer had other alternatives available
  • Whether the officer provided warnings to the suspect

What Is Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Under the Eighth Amendment, the government is prohibited from inflicting cruel and unusual punishment upon criminal defendants, criminal suspects, and people convicted of a crime. It forbids them from being unjustly imprisoned, fined, or sentenced to unusual or excessive penalties that would be considered disproportionately severe, given the nature of the crime.

Examples of unfair or inhumane treatment that could be considered potentially cruel and unusual punishment include:

  • Incarceration for mentally ill persons
  • Excessive prison sentences
  • Mandatory life sentences for juveniles
  • Unreasonable bail

In a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, the panel of justices held that punishment can be cruel and unusual if it is one of the following:

  • Too severe for the crime
  • Arbitrary
  • Offensive to society’s sense of justice
  • Not more effective than a less severe penalty

What Are the Causes of Police Brutality and Other Civil Rights Violations

The effects of police brutality are often visible in the form of severe physical injuries and tragic fatalities. But the roots of this pervasive issue are multifaceted. Among the key factors that contribute to police brutality in the U.S. include the following:

Lack of Accountability

When a police department lacks accountability or officers who misuse their power are not held accountable for their actions, it sends a message that such behavior is acceptable. This could stem from such factors as inadequate oversight or a culture that discourages reporting or speaking out.

Lack of Training

Proper training for officers is essential in law enforcement. They must be able to handle a wide range of dangerous situations safely and effectively. But without adequate training, the risk of police brutality increases, as officers could resort to excessive force in situations where it could have been avoided.

Police Bias

Biases, particularly of the racial kind, often contribute to instances of police brutality. It could be conscious or unconscious bias and often results in certain groups receiving discriminatory treatment. A recent study shows that Black Americans and Hispanic/Latino Americans are twice as likely as their white counterparts to experience the threat, or actual use, of force in police-initiated interactions.