What Are Your Legal Options If a Police Officer Harassed You?

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C.Civil Rights

Handcuffs on top of a fingerprint chart

Community policing and other initiatives have reduced but have not eliminated the reported incidents of police harassment in New York City. If you believe that a police officer has harassed you, the New York civil rights attorneys at Manhattan’s Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. will review your case at no cost to you and help you decide if taking legal action is in your best interest.

The Distinction Between Harassment and Aggressive Policing

 One person might perceive police actions as harassment, whereas the officer charged with harassment might characterize his or her actions as a reasonable response that was proportionate to the threat. Harassment is objectively defined as conduct that has no legitimate law enforcement purpose, and that causes a victim to suffer fear,  physical injuries, or emotional distress. That conduct might include:

  • Coercing false confessions;
  • Threatening witnesses to procure their testimony;
  • Regular surveillance with no probable cause;
  • Discrimination and profiling, including making comments that have racial, ethnic, or homophobic overtones;
  • Excessive use of force;  
  • Illegal search and seizures; and
  • Illegal or extended detentions.

Proving Police Harassment

In many cases, a police officer will have a very different description of circumstances than the person who is claiming police officer harassment. Determining the best legal actions in response to harassment will depend on the consistency and thoroughness of that person’s explanation of those circumstances. The person who is claiming harassment can accomplish this by:

  • Writing down everything that he or she remembers about the circumstances as soon as is possible after they occurred;
  • Taking multiple photographs of injuries that are the result of the police harassment;
  • Seeking immediate medical care for injuries, and retaining copies of medical reports that describe the nature and cause of those injuries;
  • Lodging a complaint directly with the police department, and following up on that complaint if no action is taken;
  • Safeguarding any physical evidence of the harassment and staying in contact with any witnesses to verify their observations.

Causes of Action for Police Harassment

Depending on the specific facts of a matter, a person who is the target of police harassment might have a cause of action under U.S. Federal Law if police harassment rose to the level of depriving that person of his or her Constitutional rights, privileges, and immunities.

That person might also have a valid complaint under both New York State and NYC Municipal Laws against individual police officers and the department that employs them.

A person who has been targeted by police should not hesitate to contact an experienced civil rights attorney. Causes of action under State and Municipal Laws have very short statutes of limitations. Any delay in filing a police harassment lawsuit may result in an early dismissal of the case.   

An Experienced Lawyer Can Help

An experienced civil rights lawyer will determine the best venue for filing a harassment lawsuit and will research the circumstances to fill in gaps and inconsistencies that can adversely affect the case. That lawyer can also check to see if the officer who is responsible for the harassment has any other complaints against him or her.

In extreme cases, police harassment may not be just the product of a rogue officer but may be a systemic problem that runs through an entire department or precinct. A civil rights lawyer can expose those problems and can use a lawsuit to put an end to particular types of police misconduct.

Call Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C.

At Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, we believe that the integrity of New York’s police force cannot be maintained unless we expose those elements that utilize unlawful police harassment as a law enforcement tool.

Please call us if you have been subjected to police harassment in Manhattan, the Bronx, Long Island, or Brooklyn to schedule an appointment with a New York City police brutality lawyer today.

Additional Resources:

  1. www.justice.gov: Addressing Police Misconduct Laws Enforce by the Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice
  2. US Commission on Civil Rights, https://www.usccr.gov/pubs/nypolice/ch5.htm

Understanding Police Liability for Injuries

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C.Civil Rights

police car lights

The New York City Police have enormous responsibilities, but in some instances, they cause injury to those they were sworn to protect and serve. When the police hurt someone as a result of careless or reckless conduct – intentional or not – it is a breach of the officer’s duty. In some cases, it may be possible to pursue a claim for compensation, but the laws and procedures are very strict when it comes to making a police brutality or misconduct claim. This is an area that calls for the help of an experienced attorney.

When are the police liable for injuries?

Like others in society, the police are bound by the duty to perform their jobs properly. When they act careless or abuse their power, they may be legally liable for resulting damages. However, the circumstances of the case will determine whether the liability arises as a tort (the legal term for a civil wrong arising from a breach of duty that leads to someone’s injury) or as a civil rights violation.

When the police are carrying out their duties properly, they are immune from lawsuits. But in some cases, like when the police are abusing their authority in a way that deprives another of his or her rights, it can be a violation of constitutional rights.

Instances of injuries caused by police

Some of the actions by police that can lead to injuries include excessive force and car crashes during police chases.

The amount of force that an officer is permitted to use depends on the circumstances of the case. A degree of force that is excessive in one scenario may be reasonable in another. Even if the arrest is warranted, the amount of force must not exceed that which is reasonably necessary for that situation. The intentions of the officer are not the deciding factor; the officer may have an improper motivation, but that does not render otherwise appropriate force as excessive. And even if the officer meant well, it does not make excessive force acceptable.

Sometimes innocent bystanders are injured as a result of high-speed car chases. Like excessive force cases, whether the police are liable depends on reasonableness under the circumstances. Police officers and other first responders are generally immune from liability for accidents. However, when they act in such a reckless manner that they put bystanders at risk, the immunity disappears.

People can be injured by other actions of the police as well. For example, the officers may neglect to give someone in custody their necessary medication, leading to injury or death. Again, the continuing theme is that each case depends on an evaluation of reasonableness under the circumstances. It is therefore critically important to speak with an experienced attorney about any potential claims.

Pursuing a claim against the police for injuries

Because of the complex relationship between governmental immunity for the police and the city, state, and federal laws, claims for injury against government agencies need to be filed first against the entity. In New York, a claimant needs to file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the incident. It is important to speak with a police brutality lawyer as quickly as possible after a police-related injury. 

The civil rights lawyers at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green invite those who have unfairly suffered because of NYC police actions to call to schedule a confidential consultation. From our Manhattan office, we serve clients throughout New York City, including the Bronx, Brooklyn, and also Long Island.

Additional Resources:

  1. New York City Bar, The Failure of Civil Damages to Modify Police Practices and Recommendations for Change, https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/the-failure-of-civil-damages-claims-to-modify-police-practices-and-recommendations-for-change
  2. City of New York, File a Claim, https://comptroller.nyc.gov/services/for-the-public/claims/file-a-claim/

When Do I Need a Civil Rights Attorney?

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C.Civil Rights

scales of justice in law libraryCivil liberties are a right bestowed upon all Americans. These freedoms ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political views, religion or disability. Repression, discrimination or mistreatment on the basis of any of these factors is not only unjust, but a federal violation. As a citizen of the United States, you are afforded protections for the freedom of speech, the right to due process, religion and assembly, and the right to petition against state and local governments.

When these basic freedoms are violated by individuals or representatives of government, victims have remedies for legal recourse. The Constitution of the United States protects citizens from unlawful infringement or abuses, whether committed by a public official, a workplace employer or a law enforcement agent.

Do I need a civil rights lawyer?

If you believe that your civil rights have been violated based on characteristics such as gender, national origin, or race, you are encouraged to speak with an experienced attorney who specializes in this complex area of law.

These violations are among the most deplorable because they involve trusted persons in positions of authority. Even one false arrest or wrongful conviction is too many, but the reality is this type of iniquity is all too common.

A skilled civil rights lawyer understands all facets of these constitutional protections and can help victims outline the best course of action for seeking redress and justice. Since these cases are some of the most challenging to investigate and pursue, it is essential to partner with an advocate who has extensive knowledge and experience.

Violations of civil liberties

A civil rights claim may arise from various violations and can be resolved through mediation, administrative reviews, settlement negotiations or trial.

Some common examples of civil rights cases include:

  • Police misconduct such as unlawful arrest
  • Unjust imprisonment
  • Police brutality
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex, race, religion or ethnicity
  • Unlawful searches and seizures
  • Wrongful conviction

Though challenging to litigate, a civil rights lawsuit can seek compensatory damages against the defendant – and in cases entailing particularly wanton conduct — punitive damages. An attorney can advise you on the merits of your case, the likelihood of success, and the projected timeline for litigation.

Effective representation in New York City

If you are seeking a tenacious New York City civil rights lawyer, look no further than Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. Contact our practice for straightforward, candid guidance about your legal matter. If we agree to take on your case, there are no upfront legal fees since we operate on a contingency basis.

We will commit all of the necessary resources to properly investigate your claim, retain expert witnesses and present a compelling case that fights for truth, justice and the freedoms to which you are entitled. We represent clients throughout the greater New York City metro area and Long Island.

If your civil rights have been violated, don’t delay in reaching out for a private case review today. Call 212-307-5800 or 800-969-5389.

Additional Resources on Civil Rights Matters:

  1. Justia, Civil Rights Cases https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/109/3/
  2. Cornell Law School, Civil Rights https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/civil_rights