Sunday, March 20, 2011

If I was arrested and charged with a crime I didn’t commit, and the case was dismissed, can I sue the police officer/police department?

The answer to this question is, “Probably.”  Allow me to explain.

Let me start by saying that there are a lot of great police officers out there.  The good ones do a dangerous job for little pay, just because they want to give back to their communities.  We applaud the good ones.  But not all of them are good ones.  Some police officers abuse their authority and engage in false arrests and police brutality.  The sad part, is when they abuse their authority, most citizens are basically helpless against them. 

If you have been charged with a crime you didn’t commit, and the criminal case ended favorably for you, you may be able to sue to recover damages for your pain and suffering, lost wages, attorney’s fees, and possibly punitive damages.

Jury trial “Not Guilty” verdict:

There are a couple of ways for a criminal case to end favorably for you.  If you went to a jury trial and were found Not Guilty, congratulations!  It is fairly easy to move forward with a civil case after a Not Guilty verdict is returned.  You don’t need to worry about the “stipulation of probable cause” section that is to follow.  You should see an attorney immediately about your possible civil case against the officer/police department.  You can feel free to skip to the “meeting with an attorney about your civil case” section.

Stipulation of probable cause:

If you have a current criminal case against you, please be advised that if you stipulate probable cause for your arrest, it can negatively affect your possible civil case against the officer/police department.  Often, if a prosecutor agrees to recommend dismissing your case, they will want you to agree to stipulate probable cause for the arrest.  This means that you agree that the officer had the right to arrest you at the time of the arrest.  If you agree, and stipulate probable cause, it can make things very difficult in a civil case against the officer/police department - especially if your case is for false arrest, rather than police brutality.  You may even have difficulty getting past Summary Judgment.  If a judge grants Summary Judgment against you, your civil case will be dismissed.

In short, a stipulation of probable cause in a criminal case can be very damaging to your possible false arrest case.  If your primary concern is to pursue a false arrest case, you should not stipulate probable cause for the arrest.

Meeting with an attorney about your civil case:

Most attorneys will not charge you for an initial consultation.  We will sit down with you, hear your story, and make a determination as to whether we will take your case, and not charge you for the consultation.  When you call an attorney, always ask if the first consultation is free.  Once you see an attorney about your case, make sure you understand how the attorney’s fees will be collected. 

For example, I take false arrest and police brutality cases on contingency fees.  This means that I collect my legal fee from the money that is recovered in the lawsuit.  I also front the costs of litigation, so that a client won’t have to pay out of pocket for filing fees, depositions, expert witnesses, etc.  Those costs can be very expensive, so make sure you ask an attorney about who will pay the costs of litigation.  At the end, assuming we recover against the police officer/police department or the insurance company that insures them, I re-coup the costs of litigation from the amount of money recovered.  If I don’t recover for you, you don’t pay me any money.

The damages in false arrest/police brutality cases vary from case to case, and every case is different.  The amount of money recovered depends on the degree of negligence/intentional conduct on the part of the officer, the amount of injury sustained by the plaintiff, and the insurance coverage available.

Statutes of Limitations:

The Commonwealth of Kentucky has statutes of limitations which limit the time available to file a lawsuit.  If the time allotted by the statute of limitations passes (or, “runs”), then your civil suit can be barred forever.  That makes it very important for you to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Conclusion:

A lot of attorneys don’t take false arrest/police brutality cases.  Therefore, when you are looking for an attorney to take your case, make sure the attorney has had experience with these kinds of cases.  At Gruner & Simms, PLLC., we have handled numerous false arrest and police brutality cases.  If you have a possible civil case against a police officer or police department, call 502.618.4949 for a free consultation with an experienced false arrest and police brutality lawyer.

Results.  As fast as the law will allow.


Questions answered in this blog post: What can be done about police brutality; can I sue for false arrest; what lawyers take false arrest cases; how do I find a good Louisville police brutality lawyer; what is a civil rights lawsuit; what is stipulation of probable cause; how does a stipulation of probable cause affect a false arrest/police brutality claim; what is the statute of limitations on a civil rights lawsuit; what is the statute of limitations on a false arrest/police brutality claim; explain how lawyer fees work; what is a contingency fee; how can I find a good Lexington false arrest/police brutality lawyer?

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