Can I File an Excessive Force Lawsuit After a Conviction?

By George Khoury, Esq. on July 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Claims for excessive force can be brought by individuals who have been found guilty, and even those who have accepted plea deals. Just because a person commits a crime, their civil rights do not get thrown out the window. However, most civil rights attorneys will explain that a conviction will make an excessive force case much more difficult.

Keep in mind that even individuals who are incarcerated can win excessive force cases. Excessive force claims don't look at whether a crime was actually committed, but rather look at whether the use, and amount, of force was reasonable. If an arrestee is not resisting, nor posing any threat, there should not be any force used.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty in a Court of Law

One of the hallmarks of the U.S. legal system is the right to be treated as an innocent person until the court or a jury finds guilt. To uphold this principle, police and law enforcement officers are not authorized to punish individuals. Rather, police are tasked with keeping the public safe by bringing people to the courts, which determine guilt and punishment.

Law enforcement officers are only allowed to use as much as force as is reasonably necessary to make an arrest. In many situations, such as when a criminal does not pose any danger to the public, certain types of force may not be reasonable at all. For instance, shooting a fleeing thief who stole a loaf of bread is not reasonable, and could form the basis of an excessive force case, even if the thief is tried and convicted. Though, an officer firing back at active shooter would more than likely qualify as reasonable force.

Justice and Punishment

When it comes to excessive force claims, an individual must prove that an officer's use of force went beyond what was necessary to make an arrest or keep the public safe. Even people convicted of resisting arrest can bring claims of excessive force when their resistance is put down with an unreasonable amount of force, or the force doesn't end when the resistance ends. Once a person stops resisting, force needs to stop. 

If an officer cannot explain that their actions were reasonable, from an officer's perspective, an individual will generally be able to prevail. Unfortunately, this is a difficult standard to meet for individuals, as courts tend to give officers rather wide latitude given the dangers of their job.

These claims are legally complex constitutional law claims. Seeking out an experienced civil rights attorney to help with an excessive force claim at the earliest possible time can help ensure that no deadlines are missed and the right people are sued.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard