When someone has reached the height of their fury and anger from an arrest or search by officers, they desire all kinds of retribution. One of the most common ideas that come to mind is bringing a lawsuit against the department that employs the officers where the fury is directed towards. Sometimes it’s the right idea. Many times it’s the wrong idea. Few people know what their rights truly are—and this can complicate things in a very serious way.
Yes, you can sue the police department. The more important question though is “Why?” Or better yet, “For What?”
Some believe that in the American court system, you can sue anyone for anything. All you need is a lawyer and someone to point the finger at. The truth is, everyone is tired of frivolous lawsuits. So when making the decision to sue the police department, one better make sure they have a good case and that it is the kind of case that is worth going forward with.
Another thing one has to consider is what department you are really going after. Some cities have their own police departments because their city budget hires and fires the department within their own city policies. However, many cities contract with the County Sheriff’s department. Therefore, if the police department you are considering to sue is one of these, you will actually be suing the County Sheriff’s department.
At the beginning of this article was the statement that you may need to consider a very important question in your desire to sue the police department: For What? This is where an experienced lawyer must step in to assess the causes of actions (or, reasons to sue) that will form the basis of your lawsuit.
Some people’s right to privacy has been violated due to an illegal search and seizure. Other’s have been harmed by excessive or unnecessary police force. And in some instances, people have lost their lives due to lethal force. These are issues that carry serious Constitutional violations and Civil Rights. When discussing these kinds of cases, even then the facts must be evaluated in order to make sure the actions of the police department were justified.
However, there is no shortage of cases where a simple inconvenience was suffered due to an investigation, or a brief detention/encounter on the street, or a simple traffic ticket was issued where the driver felt they didn’t deserve it—where a lawsuit would bring nothing but grief on the part of everyone involved. It’s these difficult types of individuals who will find conflict where most would simply move on. Suing police departments is no small deal. Many jobs and careers can be on the line and a frivolous lawsuit helps no one. It’s also these kinds of instances where the lawyer involved must choose to take on a case and decide to either politely and professionally decline the case or further evaluate the claim.
In summary, a careful assessment at the earliest stage can do much more good than harm. That goes for everyone involved.