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Can I File a Lawsuit In New York If I Am a Victim of Police Brutality?

Civil rights violations by the police happen every day throughout the United States. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement resulting from a shocking incident of police brutality is one of the most recent and well-known examples of civil rights movements in the country, bringing significant attention to the growing use of excessive force by the police resulting in multiple deaths across the country. According to a police brutality lawyer in NYC, if you were victim to police brutality in any way, you might be entitled to compensation via a civil rights lawsuit.

Civil Rights

Every citizen enjoys certain rights under the constitution of the United States. Known as ‘civil rights,’ these basic human rights cannot be infringed by any individual, private, or government organization, including the police. Some of the most common civil rights violations of citizens by the police include assault, battery, and unreasonable seizures. Additionally, the NYPD (New York Police Department) is infamous for its ‘stop and frisk’ strategy that infringes on citizens’ civil rights and is one of the most well-known examples of police misconduct.

Excessive Use of Force by Police

The constitution allows law enforcement agents to make use of necessary force for self-defense or making arrests. An officer can use more force than needed to arrest a suspect who resists arrest and is not compliant with their instructions. Additionally, the amount of force an officer can use against a suspect who flees depends on the nature and degree of the crime.

The decision of whether or not the use of force by an officer was excessive usually rests with the jury in civil lawsuits. The judge instructs the jury in such cases to consider what a reasonable person in the officer’s position would do under similar circumstances.

Burden of Proof

If you pursue a civil lawsuit against a police officer for violation of civil rights or police brutality, the burden of proof rests on you. You have to prove the liability of the police officer by a preponderance of the evidence. Similarly, the defendant has to prove that there was a legal justification for the conduct in question.

However, most states treat such lawsuits differently compared to typical civil lawsuits. In some states, the case is based on the presumption that adequate force was used during the altercation, something that has to be refuted with evidence by the plaintiff. Additionally, some states set a higher standard of proof with convincing and clear evidence.

Immunity for Police Officials

If you pursue legal action against law enforcement officials, you might have to face the hurdle of immunity. Most states in the United States have laws that grant immunity to government employees like police officers who are performing mandatory duties in their line of work, such as making an arrest. However, this immunity might not apply to officers who abuse their power and cross the scope of their legally stipulated duties, as seen in cases where excessive use of force takes place.

Additionally, plaintiffs who want to sue the police department of a city might face the challenge of governmental immunity. It is the protection granted by the constitution to the states whereby private citizens cannot pursue legal actions against them. Moreover, most states have laws that protect such departments from liability in civil lawsuits. Therefore, whether or not the immunity rule applies to the defendant in your case depends upon the objective facts of your case and the state where you file the lawsuit.


The laws governing the use of excessive force and police brutality can vary between different states and on different court levels, i.e., state and federal. If you or your loved one were involved in an incident of police brutality, it is crucial to contact an experienced police brutality lawyer, who can help you understand the intricacies of civil law and formulate a winning legal strategy for your case.