Underground Legal Guide for Police Brutality Victims

Underground Legal Guide for Police Brutality Victims

Spend a few minutes on the Internet and you will find plenty of advice on how to interact if stopped by the police or if incarcerated. Unfortunately, when it comes to police and corrections officer misconduct, most of that advice is bad.

As well intended as it may seem, most of that advice is written by activists and others with a political agenda. A couple of articles are written by criminal defense lawyers.

Unfortunately, there is nothing written by lawyers who practice police misconduct and civil rights law. If you are interested in protecting yourself from further reprisal and plan on seeking justice, you are in the right place. Keep reading and feel free to share a link to this guide with friends.

The time to read this guide is now. Before you are assaulted, illegally arrested or worse.

Hopefully you never need this advice but just watch the news or talk to friends and it’s obvious that there are still way too many instances of illegal police misconduct. There are too many people wearing a badge that shouldn’t.

Who Are We to Give Advice?

There is so much bad information on the Internet that you have a right to be skeptical. Before you begin reading our guide, let us tell you about us. We are civil rights lawyers spread across the United States, lawyers that have actually successfully handled police and jail death cases. Police shooting cases.

And, one of us is even a former police officer who has seen the violence and misconduct from the other side.

Our second caveat is that we can only provide general advice on the website. Every case is different, if you or a loved one have been assaulted by a cop, wrongfully detained, sexually assaulted by a jail guard or worse, call us.

We don’t charge for initial consultations and everything you discuss with us is protected by the attorney – client privilege. Even if you don’t hire us, what you tell us remains confidential.

Seriously Injured by police or jailers? Learn Your Rights on a No-Cost Legal Call 866.836.4684 or Connect by Email

Number One – EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

You have heard this advice countless times on TV shows… “You have the right to remain silent.” Exercise that right. Immediately. Criminal lawyers will tell you the same thing.

As police misconduct lawyers, our interests are a bit different than those of a criminal lawyer. Obviously, we both want is best for you but our reasons for telling you to remain silent are different.

Criminal lawyers tell you to remain silent because EVERYTHING you say can be used against you by the cops. Some cops will even change your words!

We tell you to remain silent because in our experience, once a cop violates your rights you are likely to get arrested. If for no other reason, the officer will probably quickly realize that he used too much force or arrested the wrong person or lost his cool. What better way to cover up their tracks than by arresting you.

That makes you look like the bad guy!

As much as you may be justified in mouthing off to the cops, threatening to sue, or always a big mistake, threatening the cops, will just make things worse. If the police had no reason to hassle you and now you are threatening to “Kick their asses,” guess what… you walked into their trap and, no surprise, your threats may be the only thing captured on their body cams.

There are two exceptions to remaining silent.

First, in most jurisdictions you probably must give your name. Otherwise you can sit in jail for a long time while they process you as a John Doe. The other exception is if you need medical attention.

If you are bleeding or have a giant knot on your head, ask for medical assistance. Don’t be macho simply to make the cops think you are tough. It will be much harder later to prove your injuries. Chances are much better that hospital personnel will do a better job of documenting your injuries than the officer who caused them.

Sooner or later, the cops will realize that they screwed up and go into cover-up mode. The longer it takes them to that, the easier it is to later prove your case. Also, threatening to sue may cause the officers to seek their PBA or FOP union lawyer right away, lawyers that are professionals at covering up police misconduct.

Number Two – DOCUMENT EVERYTHING

Law enforcement and corrections officers are trained to document everything. And they have the experience to document things in a way that make them look better. If you don’t also document events, it will be difficult days, weeks or months later to remember exactly what happened. The lawyers for the cops will have an easier time catching you changing your story. And jurors tend to believe people who take contemporaneous notes.

The police won’t give you a pen and paper while in the back of the squad car but once you get to jail or the hospital, write everything down. Do this immediately while it is still fresh in your head. It isn’t unusual for PTSD or shock to set in after a violent attack.

If you don’t write it down immediately, details will become cloudy.

If you can’t write things down, find a trusted community member to help you. A pastor or social worker that you know or even a family member. If you are in the hospital, you may be able to get a friend to help you record your thoughts on a smart phone.

TIP: If you happen to also be guilty of a crime, call us so that we can have someone within the attorney client privilege take your statement. We often partner with the victim’s criminal defense lawyer to better protect your rights.

Today, it isn’t uncommon for police shooting or brutality – excessive force events to be recorded by cell phone cameras. If someone you are with has a recording, have them send it electronically immediately.

We have heard of some officers confiscating phones of witnesses to “preserve” evidence. If the evidence isn’t favorable to the police, that evidence could be “lost” or destroyed. If sent, it becomes harder for the cops to cover up their tracks.

So, what things should you document?

At a minimum, make sure you at least do these things:

  1. Start with a timeline. As details pop into your head, add them to your timeline.
  2. Names of witnesses including officers who were present.
  3. For witnesses that aren’t cops, details on how to find these folks if they are later needed for your case.
  4. Everything that was said by participants including you. Don’t sugarcoat things, if you made crude comments to the police in the heat of the moment, write it all down.
  5. A map or diagram of who was where. In making your map, trace everyone’s movements.

In addition to documenting the names and contact information of the witnesses, have them write down what they saw and get those to your lawyer. If you hold on to them, those statements may be confiscated and disappear.

Number Three – CALL A LAWYER. IMMEDIATELY.

If you were shot, beaten or wrongfully detained, you need a civil rights lawyer that has experience in police misconduct cases. If you were also arrested, you need a criminal lawyer too.

Our team of police misconduct and wrongful death lawyers are experienced in working with criminal defense lawyers. We can coordinate with almost any lawyer you choose, the important thing to remember is to pick up the phone and call us.

Finding an experienced civil rights lawyer can be difficult. Obviously, we hope you choose us but know that finding someone both interested in your case and experienced isn’t easy. Unfortunately, many jurors today still believe cops over victims of police violence. As a society, are taught that police officers are to be trusted. Like all professions, however, there are good cops and some very very bad ones.

Often we hear from prospective clients that their case is “air tight” or that the ACLU is dying to take their case. Invariably they come back to us surprised that no lawyer will accept their case. Unfortunately, these cases remain very tough to prosecute properly.

We say properly because often local criminal defense lawyers have a deal worked out with a local personal injury lawyer. The criminal lawyer gets a piece of the pie from the personal injury lawyer and inevitably, the personal injury lawyer is simply holding out for a quick settlement.

They certainly don’t want to piss off the judges and cops who may be valuable referral sources. Our advice? Be very skeptical of criminal lawyers who steer your police misconduct case to a personal injury lawyer.

Lawyers that are interested in your case should be willing to accept the case on a contingent fee basis. Criminal lawyers typically get paid up front while civil rights lawyers only get paid if they win. Rules governing lawyers (called “bar rules”) vary by state meaning contingent fee arrangements may be regulated or set by some states.

Seriously Injured by police or jailers? Learn Your Rights on a No-Cost Legal Call 866.836.4684 or Connect by Email

Number Four – (Again) Call a Lawyer IMMEDIATELY

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of calling a police misconduct lawyer immediately. Some folks want to wait until their injuries are healed or the criminal case is complete. That is a big mistake.

In many states, you only have a few MONTHS to bring a claim against public agencies and law enforcement officers.

Often the incident may have been caught on video but many businesses only keep video for a few weeks.

Number Five – DON’T BE QUICK TO FILE AN INTERNAL AFFAIRS OR CITIZEN REVIEW BOARD COMPLAINT

Trust your lawyer on this one.

As much as you may want immediate justice and want to see the officers involved prosecuted or fired, filing your own complaint doesn’t give you much leverage. If the department and local prosecutor are honest, they well investigate on their own.

If you go to internal affairs, you are trusting the very department that is responsible for the assault on you to investigate one of their own. Maybe they do a great job or maybe they use the investigation as a head start on their cover up. The internal affairs or civilian review board process also allows the officer’s union rep lawyers to get involved and they definitely aren’t on your side.

Number Six – GOING TO THE MEDIA

Like filing a complaint with the police department, going to the press should be handled by your lawyers. That’s lawyers in the plural. There may be reasons why your criminal defense or police misconduct lawyer don’t want you making public statement.

Not only could you jeopardize or damage your case or defense, once you play the press card the city or jail or officers have little incentive to settle. The story is already public. At that point, the press coverage may force them to fight instead of settling.

We understand that often victims of brutal police violence want to tell their story. We usually don’t object but the media sessions need to be carefully orchestrated to prevent harm to you and to insure the true story is told.

By the way, when we say going to the media, we also mean social media. Prosecutors can use anything you post on social media in a criminal case against you.

Once again, coordinate with your legal team before launching a Facebook tirade. (Recently we saw a veteran who was protesting poor healthcare on YouTube get arrested after making statements that he was “coming after” certain VA officials. Was it a threat or just a mistreated vet making a legitimate complaint? Prosecutors thought the former and had him jailed without bond because he was a “danger” to others.)

Number Seven – PREPARING FOR THE BACKLASH

Retaliating against someone who files a section 1983 civil rights complaint is illegal. Then again, so was the police misconduct that necessitated the lawsuit.

Are you catching our drift? Cops that break the law by means of violence or wrongful misconduct might try to get you to drop your lawsuit.

Why it is unlikely that the officer will come to your home and threaten you, be vigilant and document everything if you or family members are suddenly followed by police cars or harassed for petty driving offenses. Sometimes it is the officers that are conducting the internal investigation that will try to get you to drop the complaint.

If the police want to interview you, demand that your lawyer be present. You have that right. We will be there! If family members are harassed document and call us immediately.

Our Closing Thoughts

You are not alone.

Police misconduct occurs far too often. Sometimes officers lose touch with the communities they are sworn to protect. Some cops believe that their ends justify the means. Some departments do a horrible job of screening applicants. Other departments don’t properly train officers. Sometimes, officers simply make mistakes although those mistakes can have tragic consequences. And some cops are simply evil, racist, violent or a combination of all three.

If you are the victim of police or jail misconduct, remain cool on the outside. Do everything necessary to de-escalate the situation even if you did absolutely nothing wrong. Your first goal is to remain alive. Our mission is to find justice for you and make sure these bad acts are never tolerated.

Cops that abuse the people they swore to protect are criminals. Be prepared, stay safe and let us handle it. Hopefully some of this information will help you if you become yet another victim of police misconduct.

Seriously Injured by police or jailers? Learn Your Rights on a No-Cost Legal Call 866.836.4684 or Connect by Email

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