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What Constitutes Police Brutality in California?

— May 24, 2022

California has recently raised the legal standards for justifying the use of deadly force by the police.

California has the highest number of police shootings in the US, which can, of course, be explained by the fact that the state also has the largest population. However, if you factor in the larger population, California still ranks above the national average with 3.84 per 1,000,000 people as compared to 3.04 nationwide. In 2020, for instance, there were 140 fatal police shootings in California, not to mention thousands of non-lethal ones. And, yet, only 3 police officers were arrested for on-duty deaths.

The state has enacted new legislation meant to curb police misconduct, but one of the best tools to fight this problem is for victims to file a civil rights lawsuit whenever they are faced with police brutality.

As of last year, the California DA will be investigating police killings rather than leaving it to local authorities, but that won’t change much. According to estimates, only 40-50 such incidents would qualify for the DA’s automatic intervention. The vast majority, the non-lethal shootings and the beatings, won’t, so it’s up to the victims to speak to a knowledgeable California police brutality lawyer and do something about it.

How is police brutality defined in California?

Police brutality is a form of police misconduct defined as an ‘unlawful assault by a public officer under the color of authority’. The use of excessive force is illegal under the 4th and the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. It is a violation of your civil rights so you are entitled to file a police brutality complaint.

The big issue is how do you prove that the law enforcement agents used an excessive amount of force. What is excessive and what is reasonable? Only experienced California police brutality lawyers can give you an answer to that by examining all the facts in your case.

A masked robber threatening a person with a gun; image courtesy of Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-12763 / CC-BY-SA 3.0,

California has recently raised the legal standards for justifying the use of deadly force by the police. Officers are allowed to shoot only “when necessary in defense of human life”. Before that, the law was more vague allowing officers to pull the trigger whenever such action seemed “reasonable”. What does the new law mean to ordinary Californians? It means that a police officer cannot shoot an unarmed suspect or a fleeing individual who does not threaten the lives of others in any way. 

How can a lawyer help?

If you were injured in a police shooting, you need to contact a skilled police brutality lawyer and file a complaint with the local PD. 

Seeing that most complaints will still be investigated by local police, you will need a very good lawyer to build a solid case, so the officers responsible don’t get away with it. 

Your lawyers will gather the evidence you need, starting with the body cam footage. Police departments in California are required by law to release this type of footage. Also, your lawyers will look into the agent’s record to see whether they have been charged with police brutality before and have been sanctioned in any way. Chances are they were not punished in any significant way, but your attorneys can use this type of information to prove there was a pattern of violent behavior. If it turns out that their superiors knew there was a problem and did nothing about it, you can file a complaint against the whole police department and have them pay for what they did to you. 

If you were recently involved in a brutal encounter with local police, you should contact a trustworthy lawyer at the Kaplan Weiss LLP law firm in Los Angeles and let them fight for your rights.

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