Houston Excessive Force Lawyer
The headlines in the news lately have shed a strong light on the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement in Houston and throughout the United States – disproportionately applied on the minority community. It is important that everyone understands they have rights. Just because someone is in a position of authority, it does not give them the right to use excessive force, which has been shown to cause very serious injury. If you or someone you love has been hurt, it is important to speak to a Houston excessive force lawyer that can help you claim the full damages you deserve.
What is Excessive Force?
There is no specific definition of excessive force under federal law. Typically, it refers to when a law enforcement officer uses greater force than reasonably necessary to effectuate the end goal than another officer would have used in the same situation.
It is often difficult to determine when excessive force has been used. Police officers and other law enforcement officers sometimes have to use force in order to do their job. Force is sometimes necessary to subdue a suspect, or to protect the public from harm. In many cases, it is left to the courts and juries to determine whether the appropriate amount of force was used in the situation.
Use of Force Continuum
Excessive force often comes into play where an office violates his/her policy on force as it exists on the Use of Force Continuum. A Use of Force Continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a subject in a given situation. Generally, no more force may be used than is necessary to gain compliance. The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Graham v. Connor, (1989) ruled that excessive use of force claims must be evaluated under the “objectively reasonable” standard of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the “reasonableness” factor of a use of force incident must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and judged with the understanding that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. However, when use of force moves too quickly or jumps over a tier of the continuum, liability may be present. The use of force continuum resembles the following:
On the continuum, there is often guidance provided to the officer on what constitutes that type of force and when it is appropriate. For example, Deadly Force is generally considered when an officer’s firearm is discharged and may only be used when the life of the officer or another person is in danger. Therefore, if an officer were to discharge his firearm in response to an unprovoked, routine traffic stop where neither the officer’s or another’s life is in danger and injury results to the person being pulled over, that person would have a claim for excessive force. In that example, the officer jumped several steps in the continuum to gain compliance and the conduct was unreasonable under the circumstances.
Types of Excessive Force Cases Gilde Law Firm Retains
Unfortunately, because of immunity, when police officers and their entity commit constitutional violations, they often get away with it. The legal hurdles, cost of litigation, and burdens of proof surrounding these cases often make filing a case nearly impossible. As a consequence, most lawyers shy away from 1983 cases and Monell cases specifically. While Gilde Law Firm is different, we have to be selective in the types of cases we retain. Therefore, Gilde Law Firm only retains the following types of 1983 cases and Monell cases:
- Unlawful Search & Seizure Resulting in Wrongful Death
- Excessive Force Resulting in Wrongful Death
- Unlawful Search & Seizure Resulting in Significant Catastrophic Personal Injury (e.g. burns from a taser, heart attacks, broken bone(s), torn muscles or ligaments, significant blunt force trauma, asphyxiation, and suffocation)
- Excessive Force Resulting in Significant Catastrophic Personal Injury (e.g. burns from a taser, heart attacks, broken bone(s), torn muscles or ligaments, significant blunt force trauma, asphyxiation, and suffocation)
- Monell cases where there is a pattern and practice of the complained-of unconstitutional conduct or where the unconstitutional conduct was ratified after the fact
Examples of Excessive Force
Law enforcement agencies use excessive force in a number of different ways. Some of the most common are as follows:
- Rubber bullets: Despite the name, rubber bullets often contain a hard metal core. When they are used against a person, they can cause internal bleeding and organ damage, even if they do not break the skin.
- Pepper spray: Law enforcement officers often use pepper spray for riot control and crowd control, but it too, can cause very serious injuries. Mild injuries include coughing, difficulty breathing, and throat and nasal irritation. More serious injuries include wheezing, corneal abrasions, and skin blisters.
- Choke holds: Police officers are sometimes trained to use choke holds to subdue suspects, but they must do so safely and without using excessive force. When excessive force is used, it can result in a loss of unconsciousness and wrongful death.
- Tasers: Tasers are electroshock weapons used to subdue suspects. They can cause heart problems, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
- Positional Restraint: The placing of suspects on their stomachs for a prolonged period of time, use of hogtieing techniques, etc. are types of impermissible restraint techniques that can cause wrongful death.
- Asphyxiation: The deprivation of oxygen by means of external force or pressure can cause a heart attack and death. Often times, this method of force leaves no evidence – making it especially difficult to prove – even in the face of videorecorded evidence but especially in the absence of videorecorded evidence. See e.g., George Floyd vis-à-vis Jamail Amron.
- Shooting: Unfortunately, police officers shooting the people they are dealing with is all too common. Shooting is almost always an example of excessive force and can result in fatalities and other serious injuries.
Examples of Settlements Stemming from Excessive Force and Wrongful Death:
The above-type examples of excessive force have led to noteworthy settlements, as reported in the news that include the following:
- Oscar Grant, Deceased (2009) – $2,800,000 Settlement (2011; CA)
- Michael Brown, Deceased (2014) – $1,500,000 Settlement (2017; MO)
- Laquan McDonald, Deceased (2014) – $5,000,000 Settlement (2015; IL)
- Tamir Rice, Deceased (2014) – $6,000,000 Settlement (2016; OH)
- Walter L. Scott, Deceased (2015) – $6,500,000 Settlement (2015; SC)
- Eric Garner, Deceased (2014) – $5,900,000 Settlement (2015; NY)
- Philando Castile, Deceased (2016) – $2,995,000 Settlement (2017; MN)
- Bettie Jones, Deceased (2018) – $16,000,000 Settlement (2018; IL)
- Justine Ruszczyk, Deceased (2017) – $20,000,000 Settlement (2019; MN)
- Breonna Taylor, Deceased (2020) – $12,000,000 Settlement (2020; KY)
- George Floyd, Deceased (2020) – $27,000,000 Settlement (2021; MN)
- Jamail Amron, Deceased (2010) – $4,750,000 Settlement (2021; TX)
If a police officer has used any of the above forms of excessive force, or any other, and you were hurt as a result, it is important to speak to a civil rights lawyer that can make sure your rights are restored.
Call Our Houston Excessive Force Lawyer Today
No one should ever become a victim of excessive force, but it happens all too often. At Gilde Law Firm, our Houston excessive force lawyers have the necessary experience to file a claim against government entities such as police officers, and help you obtain a positive outcome. Call us today at 800-973-3106 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.