Civil Rights Law

Man behind bars


Attorney Gladish has actively pursued excessive force/police brutality claims for over 20 years.  Attorney Gladish looks to protect the constitutional rights of his clients, including going to trial and winning jury verdicts in favor of his clients in these difficult cases where the evidence is stacked against the plaintiff.  Client need to be aware that Congress has passed federal statutes that protect a person’s constitutional rights from violation by the government, including police brutality and false arrest.

Note, the Fourth Amendment provides, in relevant part, for the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable … seizures….” The Supreme Court has explained that “a ‘seizure’ of property occurs when there is some meaningful interference with an individual’s possessory interests in that property” caused by a government actor. In evaluating such a challenge, we must determine whether the “seizure” of property was “unreasonable,” a determination that requires a balancing of governmental and private interests. Generally, seizures of personal property are unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, without more, unless … accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant.  But because reasonableness is still the ultimate standard under the Fourth Amendment, there are exceptions that allow for warrantless seizures.

Further, a seizure occurs whenever a police officer by means of physical force or show of authority … in some way restrains the liberty of a citizen.  There is a seizure “whenever an officer restrains the freedom of a person to walk away,” such as by the laying on of hands or other application of physical force.  A blow by a police officer that immobilizes the recipient easily meets this definition of a seizure. The fact that the restraint on the individual’s freedom of movement is brief makes no difference.

To state a claim for relief under federal law, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) they were deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was visited upon them by a person or persons acting under color of state law.  To prevail on a false-arrest claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that there was no probable cause for his arrest.  Usually, the arrest records are stacked against the plaintiff, so an attorney who knows how to vigorously cross examine the police is necessary for you to have any real chance at making a successful recovery.

There is also the right to be free of excessive force during an arrest. Even when an officer has probable cause to arrest, the Fourth Amendment prohibits him from employing greater force than is reasonably necessary to make the arrest. The question whether the use of force during an arrest is proper under the Fourth Amendment depends on the objective reasonableness of the officer’s actions, judged on the basis of the conditions the officer faced.  In order to assess objective reasonableness, the court must consider all the circumstances, including notably, “[1] the severity of the crime at issue, [2] whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and [3] whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”

Finally, the Indiana Supreme Court found that local police departments are not immune from suit under the Indiana Tort Claims Act for excessive use of force by police officers during the course of an arrest, unless the deputy “reasonably believed” that the force was necessary to effectuate a lawful arrest. Usually, the issue of excessive force goes to a jury, unless the undisputed evidence demonstrates that the officer was clearly using reasonable force in effectuating a lawful arrest. Further, governments employing the officers will have liability for their use of excessive force under a theory of respondeat superior up to the Tort Claims Act limit. The current cap for a current Tort Claims Act for an individual claim is $700,000.00 under Indiana law.  However, under federal law, there is no cap to recovery and you may also collect punitive damages, costs and attorney’s fees as damages in these cases.