When you are arrested, you’re entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution. However, these rights can be compromised in certain situations, such as an unlawful search and seizure.
The following is a checklist to help you determine if your rights were violated during your arrest. If you’ve experienced any of the following, talk to your civil rights lawyer about your next steps.
Legal Grounds for Police to Stop You
If you’re pulled over by the cops, you want to make sure that the stop is legal. Maybe you have a couple of unpaid parking tickets, or you think the cop just pulled you over because he couldn’t catch someone else, or maybe you’re even the victim of profiling.
When pulled over, take stock of your surroundings and look for signs that the stop was not legal, such as:
- You weren’t driving erratically or speeding
- You weren’t swerving or driving too slow
- You didn’t commit any traffic violation, such as running a red light or stop sign or changing lanes without signaling
If you’re not sure if the stop was legal or not, ask questions and check with a lawyer afterward. Your lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case.
Reading of Your Rights
In the United States, the police are required to read you your Miranda rights. Failure to do so could invalidate your arrest. These rights state that you don’t have to say anything that would incriminate yourself, and you don’t have to speak without a lawyer present.
In other words, if an officer doesn’t read you your rights and make sure you understand them, everything they say can be thrown out of court. Not knowing your rights can put you at an unfair disadvantage.
Probable Cause for Your Arrest
Probable cause means there’s enough evidence to believe a crime was committed and that you did it. There are numerous conditions that can establish probable cause for an arrest. These include the following:
- The officer’s direct observation of any crime, such as witnessing an assault
- The officer’s knowledge of past criminal activity by the suspect
- Refusal to obey police orders
- The officer has reason to believe that evidence of a crime will be found in a specific place, like inside an apartment
- The suspect flees from police custody
Generally, probable cause has to be based on something more than mere speculation to issue a warrant for your arrest. It must be based on facts, not just guesses or hunches, which can lead to a biased response.
A judge will usually decide whether there was probable cause for an arrest or search. They’ll hear testimony from police officers and any witnesses, view physical evidence, and review any warrant that was issued. If there’s no probable cause, your case may be dismissed.
Excessive or Unreasonable Force
The difference between excessive force and unreasonable force is an important distinction for anybody who’s facing charges.
Excessive force laws are specific to each state. In general, the laws state police cannot use more force than necessary to make an arrest or otherwise carry out their official tasks. Courts may find that an officer used excessive force if they act in a reckless way or uses more force than necessary to subdue a suspect.
Unreasonable force laws prohibit the cops from using any type of physical contact without justification. For example, if you are handcuffed by police and they accidentally cause you to fall down, that would not be considered unreasonable force because it was accidental.
However, if they intentionally throw you to the ground while you’re handcuffed, that could be considered unreasonable force because there was no reason for them to do that other than a desire to hurt someone who had already been subdued.
In addition, if you need medical attention while you’re in custody, it’s mandatory for officers to provide it under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you were denied care, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
Safeguard Your Rights with a Defense Lawyer
Nobody is above the law, and that includes police officers. This checklist should shed light on whether or not your rights were violated. If you have been wrongfully arrested or treated unfairly during your arrest, it is important that you seek legal counsel immediately.
The team at Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC is here to help you take the right steps toward compensation after a civil rights violation. For a consultation, call us at 817-334-7900 or fill out the following online contact form.