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How Do I Sue the Local Police?

Suing the local police for excessive force or misconduct requires careful preparation and legal expertise. Here’s what you need to know:

Can I Sue the Police Department for Violating My Rights?

You have rights under state laws and the constitution. If violated, you can sue the police department. These cases often require an experienced lawyer.

When Can I Sue the Police?

Examples of Misconduct: Includes brutality, corruption, perjury, falsification of evidence, racial profiling, false arrest, coercion, fraud, imprisonment, abuse of authority, evidence spoliation, and assault. Common claims involve harassment, 4th amendment violations (unreasonable searches or seizures), excessive force, and discrimination.

Types of Damages

  1. Compensatory Damages
    • Compensate for losses due to false arrest, including lost wages, medical expenses, and damage to your reputation. Severe injury during the arrest may lead to additional damages for pain and suffering.
  2. Punitive Damages
    • Punish wrongdoers and deter similar conduct. Awarded in cases of intentional or reckless misconduct, such as proving malice or bad faith by police officers.

Who Do I Sue?

When consulting with an experienced lawyer, you may wonder who is named as a party to a lawsuit. Understanding governmental immunity, which protects government agencies from lawsuits in many cases, is crucial. Individuals such as police officers, supervisors, and departments could be named in a lawsuit involving police misconduct.

  • Qualified Immunity: Generally, police officers are given qualified immunity, which protects them from being sued directly. However, you can sue the police department if the officer acted so negligently or unreasonably that they violated clearly established statutory or constitutional rights.

  • Civil Rights Protection: Anyone interacting with the police has protection for their civil rights, including freedom from discrimination, harassment, assault, and unreasonable search and seizure.

Settlement vs. Trial

  • Settlements: Generally, settlements are lower than trial verdicts as the plaintiff and defendant negotiate a mutually acceptable compromise without going to trial. 
  • Trial Verdicts: Jury verdicts can be higher than settlements if you have a strong and clear lawsuit.

Attorney Fees and Costs

  • Contingency Attorney’s Fees: Many civil rights attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing out of pocket until you win the case.
  • Litigation Costs: Litigation costs are different from attorney’s fees. These include witness fees, court expenses, and other associated costs, which can add up quickly.

Steps to Sue the Police

  1. Document the Incident
    • Gather all evidence, including photographs, videos, medical records, and witness statements.
  2. File a Complaint
    • File an internal complaint with the police department. This step is often required before you can pursue a lawsuit.
  3. Consult an Attorney
    • Seek a civil rights attorney experienced in police misconduct cases to evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process.
  4. Notice of Claim
    • In many jurisdictions, you must file a notice of claim before suing a government entity. This document informs the police department of your intent to sue.
  5. File the Lawsuit
    • Your attorney will draft and file the lawsuit, detailing your claims and the damages you seek.


At Golden Gate Legal, we provide expert legal support to help you navigate your case and maximize your compensation, especially in California. If you’ve been a victim of police misconduct, contact us today for a consultation to discuss your case and explore your options for legal action.

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