Excessive Force by Police

Excessive force by police.

Excessive force is the use of force by a police officer that is disproportionate to what a reasonable police officer would use under similar circumstances. The law allows police officers to use whatever force is necessary to make an arrest or defend themselves. However, they are also required to use their best judgment in determining how much force should be used in the heat of the moment.

The amount of force police officers can use depends on the circumstances of the arrest, such as:

  • The severity of the alleged crime
  • Whether the person poses a direct threat
  • Whether the person is resisting arrest

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 USC 1983), people have the right to be free from violations of their constitutional rights by government officials. Use of more force than is reasonably necessary leads to a violation of a person’s fourth amendment rights. The fourth amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Instances of Excessive Force by Police Officers

  • The use of physical force against a person already in custody and not resisting arrest
  • The use of a weapon against an unarmed person
  • The use of threat to force a person into providing information or confessing
  • The use of repeated force or the use of a weapon when a person is already subdued

Suing a Police Officer for Use of Excessive Force

A person who has been a victim of excessive force may have a viable claim against the arresting officer. However, to sue a police officer, a victim must provide sufficient evidence. The following are two important pieces of evidence:

  • Video footage of the incident where excessive force was used: This is important because police officers generally have more credibility than the person arrested.
  • A significant and serious injury suffered by the victim: It is important to note that if a person has suffered a significant injury but the officer establishes that the use of force was reasonable, the person arrested may not be able to sue the officer.

Contact Us

Victims of excessive force are entitled to monetary damages to compensate them for the injuries they have suffered. If you or a loved one has been physically hurt due to the excessive use of force by a police officer, call 201-420-1913 or email at

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