What is Excessive Force? Is it Battery?

When police officers arrest a suspect, they have a right to use the amount of force they consider reasonable. Excessive force refers to force in excess of what is considered reasonable. When a police officer uses excessive force, it is possible to hold the person liable. 

When to file an excessive force claim

To file an excessive force claim, you must be able to prove that the police used force in a manner that violated your constitutional rights. When your Fourth Amendment constitutional rights have been violated, a lawsuit that alleges excessive force is a federal claim. 

As excessive force is not specifically defined under federal law, judges and juries must determine whether a reasonable officer would have used the same amount of force in similar circumstances. 

Factors that must be considered

The courts will consider many issues, such as whether a suspect posed a threat of danger to officers or the general public or was simply running away. 

They will determine whether it would have been possible to tackle a suspect or whether using a weapon was justified. Another factor they will take into consideration is whether a suspect is being arrested for a violent or a non-violent crime. 

How much force is used often depends on the circumstances and so each case has to be decided on its own merits, taking into account all the circumstances. For example, it may be considered reasonable to use force against a suspect who doesn’t obey verbal commands and attempts to grab an officer’s weapon. 

Police brutality and planted evidence

The Walter Scott case is one that involved police brutality and planted evidence. Police brutality lawyers involved in this case had to know about civil rights issues, excessive force and planted evidence to get a conviction. 

Officer Michael Slager pulled Scott over for an allegedly broken taillight and when Scott fled the scene, Slager fired multiple shots at him. In a cell phone video that captured the events, he was seen placing his Taser next to Scott’s body. It was eventually ruled that Slager had used excessive force and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

Excessive force under the 8th and 14th Amendments

Reports about excessive use of force usually involve the arrest of a suspect and in such a situation, the 4th amendment applies. However, if the individual is a convicted prisoner, other amendments come into play. 

Convicted inmates are protected under the cruel and unusual punishment clause in the 8th amendment. An officer must use force sadistically or maliciously with the intent of causing harm. There is, therefore, a higher threshold to meet than required under the 4th amendment. 

The situation is even more complex if a suspect has been arrested and is in custody but has not yet been convicted of a crime. Excessive force in such a situation is considered a 14th amendment violation and a plaintiff has to prove that an officer was intending to ‘punish’ him or her without a legitimate purpose.

Is excessive force a kind of battery?

As the definition of battery tends to vary from state to state, it will help if you find a local lawyer to handle your case from USAttorneys.com

Battery refers to the act of intentionally making offensive physical contact with any person without the person’s consent. So by definition, excessive force does fall into the civil battery category. When suing the police for excessive force under state law, it may be referred to as battery. As the consideration and underlying facts are the same, a plaintiff filing battery and excessive force claims will usually win or lose both. 

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