The Sanders Firm, P.C.: The Fourth Amendment and Excessive Force

Often when clients contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. regarding excessive force used by law enforcement they are surprised to find that their Fourth Amendment rights may have been violated. Understanding excessive force will help you determine if your rights have been violated. Below you will find a discussion of the Fourth Amendment and how it relates to excessive force and how excessive force may be determined.

The Fourth Amendment and Your Rights

The Fourth Amendment protects you from searches and seizures that are “unreasonable.” Although many people consider material goods to be the focus of a “seizure,” the fact is when a person is placed under arrest or detained this is also considered to be seizure. This is a “seizure of person.”

The Fourth Amendment outlines our rights against “unreasonable searches and seizures” in the following way, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Note the phrase “shall not be violated,” which indicates that any “unreasonable” seizure violates the law. This is true in both the seizure of property and of person.

Use of Excessive Force

We at The Sanders Firm, P.C. in New York understand that “excessive force” is a relative term. Determining if excessive force was used against a person, depends upon several factors. Those factors all come back to one word, “unreasonable.” In determining if a law enforcement officer has used excessive force, the primary consideration will be was it an unreasonable use of force. To determine this we have to understand the details of the situation the officer was facing at the time and how he reacts to it.

Thus, if an officer is trying to arrest someone and the person struggles and then brandishes a weapon the officer’s use of a weapon or some sort of other physical force, such as a Taser, against that person probably would not constitute excessive force. The officer is probably making reasonable judgments at the time and protecting his/her life or the life of another. However, if someone is compliant to an officer’s attempt to handcuff and arrest them and the officer beats them or uses a Taser, then that would appear to be excessive force as the officer’s actions are probably “unreasonable.”

The Law and Excessive Force

At the New York law offices of The Sanders Firm, P.C., we are ready to handle your excessive force case. The Fourth Amendment affords each of us protections that are important ensuring that our civil rights are preserved. Any use of excessive force in a seizure of person is a violation of the amendment. Call The Sanders Firm, P.C., your voice for justice, if you feel your civil rights have been violated in any way.