Abusing the Badge

July 21st, 2017

For the most part, we in the United States have the luxury of living in a nation where the rule of law holds sway. But one of the costs required to preserve this liberty and way of life in constant vigilance. That includes vigilance over those that we trust to keep vigilance over us.

The vast majority of police have the interests of the public at heart when they do their jobs. But they are human, and every one can get carried away sometimes. The mindset of protecting people can get to be overwhelming and I believe anyone being reasonable has to admit can slip into police brutality. And I believe we all believe police brutality is inexcusable.

Lawful arrests are one thing. Beating someone to a pulp and then charging them with resisting arrest is literally adding insult to injury. And for a long time, there has been little to do about these instances.

“Little” does not mean nothing.

If you are subject to physical abuse and police brutality, do you have the right to defend yourself? Yes and no. First off, note that laws differ by state. According to a recent ruling in New Jersey when a citizen becomes the victim of unlawful force by a law enforcement officer he/she has the right to defend themselves by responsive force.  Here the defendant was beaten bloody and required hospitalization after his arrest – on charges that didn’t even result in a guilty verdict. He was convicted of only one thing – resisting arrest.

This ruling threw out that conviction because the jury instructions failed to note that he had a right to defend himself.

We are not advocating breaking the law. We’re not advocating resisting a valid arrest. And it is our prayer that the situations of unlawful force are minimized by the citizens who do break the law understanding the need to submit to an arrest so that Court’s can do their job. Yet tension is often high in the mind of the officer when situations occur on the streets, so we believe unlawful force exists and will continue to exist.

So be informed. You have civil rights to file suit if you’ve been abused by a police officer. And depending on where you live, you may have the right at that time to physically defend yourself or others. It’s arguable such exists in Alabama, but the interpretation of “reasonable force” and the classification of person being protected and/or doing the abuse comes into play.

The price of vigilance requires that everyone follow the law. And that includes the officers seeking to make an arrest.

Again, we hope there will never be another incident like this again. But knowing the world we live in it’s likely unlawful force will happen and damages will be suffered. If it happens, we are here to help you! Give us a call 1-877-717-5342 for a no-charge consultation.

-Trenton Garmon, JD, MA