Section 1983: Protecting Yourself Against Chicago Police Misconduct

In America, citizens have privileges outlines in the constitution to protect them from abuse and misconduct. Just because these provisions are in place, however, doesn’t mean they’re always adhered to. If a police officer uses excessive force in a way that violates a person’s civil rights, it may be grounds for a valid claim under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

What is Section 1983?

Essentially, this federal statute allows you to sue the government for civil rights violations. In order for the statute to be invoked, the perpetrator must have been abusing authority gathered by state and federal law while depriving another person of their civil rights. This is called acting “under the color of state law.” If the wrongdoer was on duty, in a law enforcement uniform, used police equipment as part of the abuse, flashed a badge or made an arrest, a judge may rule an officer used those factors to violate the law.

Did the Police Violate Your Civil Rights?

The powers wielded by police are broad, and the public is reacting now by videotaping police when there is perceived misconduct. If you believe a police officer may have violated your civil rights, there are three common claims that may protect you:

  • False arrest or imprisonment: This is the most typical claim brought against an officer. If you have been arrested, you may be able to argue the police did not have probable cause to do so. The Fourth Amendment protects you from any unreasonable searches and seizures, which also applies to unwarranted arrests. Sometimes, police may arrest you if they are the primary witness to an alleged crime and will not carry out the proper channels to prove a crime was committed. This failure to act might help your case of false arrest.
  • Malicious Prosecution: To win this type of claim, you must show an officer deprived you of your Fourteenth Amendment right to liberty, without probable cause. In order to do this, your defense must show the officer in question started a criminal proceeding that ended with no conviction, there was no probable cause for the proceeding and it was brought about with malicious intent.
  • Excessive force or failure to intervene: Officers are typically given leeway to use the force they deem fit to control a situation or make an arrest. However, the “reasonable” aspect depends on the surrounding circumstances, which is open to being challenged in court. If another officer witnesses excessive force and doesn’t intervene, you may also claim they violated your constitutional rights by not acting to stop the force.

Speak to an Experienced Chicago Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested, imprisoned, or abused by an officer in any way, don’t fight back, as you may be able to file a claim under Section 1983. The criminal defense attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC will search diligently for evidence of wrongdoing to build the best case for you. We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us right away at (312) 644-0444 for a free initial consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : October 21, 2019