Simon Says, Innocent People Are Getting Fed Up With Police Misconduct
If you’ve been paying attention to the news in recent years, you may have noticed that America has a lot of shootings. Police shootings are also quite high, when compared to other developed countries of the world. The Washington Post has been keeping track of these police shootings for some time, and the results are staggering. There were almost 1,000 in 2017 alone.
At the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A., we represent those who are accused of crimes. Many times, clients come to us, victims themselves, after police have used improper investigation techniques, violated their fundamental Constitutional rights, or used excessive force in making the arrest. Nationwide, police shootings are often excused because suspects are unable to comply with complicated and even contradictory instructions that some people are now morbidly terming “Simon Says.” In many situations, officers are heard screaming conflicting commands to unarmed victims who are already lying on the ground. One mistake, and the victim is killed or seriously injured.
But what does the law say about a police officer’s duty to arrest a suspect and how an arrest should be made?
When Can Police Detain or Arrest You?
Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to be “free from unreasonable search and seizure.” This means the government (e.g. Police Officers) are not to search you or take things from you unless it is reasonable. The Supreme Court has defined reasonable as any of the following:
- When you give consent
- When you are already being lawfully arrested
- Exigent circumstances (there is a present threat)
- The items sought are in plain view
- If there is reasonable suspicion that you are committing or about to commit a crime, an officer can briefly detain you.
- There are many complex exceptions that apply when there is a car involved.
What is Excessive Force?
Like most things in criminal law, the U.S. Constitution controls the intersection between your rights and the government. The Eighth Amendment packs a lot of law into a single one-sentence statement. It prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments” for crimes. Likewise, the Fourteenth Amendment makes it unlawful to deprive someone of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
Due process just means that when you are suspected of crime, you have a right to be brought before a jury and tried. You have a right to have an attorney, a judge, a fair and neutral jury of your peers, and all the other procedural trappings of a democracy. If convicted, the punishment should meet the crime.
How Can Police Shootings Violate the Constitution?
When a police officer, who is a representative of the government, takes away your life, freedom, or your property without you having the opportunity to be represented by a lawyer, without you being able to plead your case to a jury, that police officer is acting as the entire justice system and is depriving you of your rights. Further, if your crime was shoplifting, public intoxication, or even assault, death would almost certainly be considered an unjust punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Were Your Rights Violated During an Arrest?
There is some good news for those who’ve been assaulted or abused by the police. If your arrest was unlawful or the police failed to have reasonable suspicion to believe that you were committing a crime, this can be used as grounds for excluding evidence. There are many creative ways to fight a criminal charge, especially when police exercise poor judgment in the arrest process. Call today to speak with an attorney who will listen to your side of the story and help you fight for your rights.