Orange County Police Misconduct Lawyer
Helping Victims of Police Brutality
Orange County, and Southern California as a whole, is no stranger to police brutality. Our region has a long history with such behavior, stretching back almost a century. Unfortunately, despite great reforms within local policies, there remains a steady stream of complaints against abusive officers. In particular, the past few decades saw a dramatic increase in instances of police brutality in our community. Sadly, this violence extends well beyond our regional borders, and can be felt as far away as Staten Island, Ferguson, Cleveland, and Minneapolis.
At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti we take cases of police misconduct seriously.
After all, such violations often happen in our neighborhoods - sometimes right at our doorstep. This has a chilling effect on the region, creating an air of distrust for anyone wearing a badge. This ultimately puts everyone's safety in jeopardy and only leads to more conflict and more accusations. But, by holding these offending officers legally accountable for their actions, we can put an end to the cycle and serve as a warning for other law enforcement officers that abuse their position.
If you or a family member has been unreasonably detained, abused, searched, or attacked by a police officer you may have the right to pursue legal action. Contact our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free (888) 478-8999 to discuss your legal rights and options in a confidential consultation.
What Is Considered Police Misconduct in Orange County?
Officers of the law take an oath to protect the community in which they serve and conduct themselves according to a specific code of behavior. Anytime an officer overreaches their authority or breaks their oath—whether it is physically, emotionally, financially, or legally—they may have engaged in misconduct. More often than not, this misconduct involves some sort of extreme aggression that results in the violation of a person's Civil Rights. This is also commonly referred to as “excessive force” or “abuse of power” and encompasses a wide array of illegal actions.
Some of the more common types of excessive force and police brutality often involve:
- Police Batons – Used by police officers for centuries, batons are quick, easily deployed weapons that can be useful in subduing an attacker or fleeing suspect. Unfortunately, they can just as easily be used to inflict unnecessary pain or injury on a victim.
- Choke Holds– This maneuver has become the source of great controversy over the past few decades and remains a questionable police tactic. While most precincts have barred the practice, it often comes up in cases of police brutality.
- Firearms – Police officers are required to have a specific rationale for using deadly force upon a person. Failing to meet that standard may show a form of police brutality.
- Tasers and Stun Guns – Despite being considered non-lethal and a safer alternative to firearms, tasers and stun guns can be lethal if used excessively and if the suspect has a heart condition. California courts have determined that officers may only use these tools when there is a clear danger to the public and when the suspect is resisting arrest, but using them to inflict pain on a suspect is a clear sign of abuse.
- Pepper Spray – Pepper spray has become a recent debate among politicians and medical experts who feel that the chemicals used are extremely dangerous and sometimes even deadly. Officers have been caught on footage pepper spraying suspects who were completely compliant with an arrest or who were handcuffed. Unless the officer can clearly demonstrate that the spray was necessary to subdue a violent suspect, the use of pepper spray may be considered police brutality.
- Aggressive Handling – Police officers often have to deal with violent or belligerent individuals when investigating a crime, which can lead to them being overly aggressive when making an arrest or speaking with a suspect. But time and time again we have seen video footage and reports of police officers pinning individuals to the ground or slamming them into vehicles without any probable cause to do so.
While there are cases where force is necessary to stop a violent suspect, recent events have shown that many suspects required aid from a mental health professional or even a medical doctor. They may not have been in the right state of mind and were not aware that an officer was attempting to arrest or question them. Officers should always use the appropriate methods when handling a suspect, but all too often they fall back on aggressive actions.
Abuse of Power
But beyond physical acts of violence, police officers can also perform misconduct through abuse of power. Police officers in California have a wide range of authority that was designed to allow them to prevent and investigate crimes, but more often than not, officers utilize this authority in illegal manners, either for personal gain or to speed up an investigation. Whatever the circumstances, officers are only granted these powers under specific circumstances, and stepping out of bounds can be considered police misconduct.
Abuse of power can take many forms, including:
- Illegal search and seizures
- Unlawful detentions
- False arrests
- Falsifying warrants or criminal records
- Planting evidence
- Racial profiling
- Violating constitutional rights
- Violent Miranda Rights
Pushing Back Against Police Misconduct
Fighting against police misconduct is not an easy matter, which is why most people do not do it. Defendants often feel like the police hold all the cards and can write whatever they want into their reports. However, with a thorough investigation by a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, there may be a way to expose the misconduct and have your charge dropped altogether.
First and foremost, your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence that is collected illegally, including confessions made under duress or if excessive force was involved in the arrest. This can severely undercut the prosecution’s case against you and lead to your case being dismissed altogether. In order to suppress evidence received through police misconduct, your attorney may utilize witness testimony, photo or video evidence, previous reports of misconduct, and an in-depth, private investigation.
In addition to suppressing evidence, you are eligible to file a complaint against a police officer with your local Orange County department. We understand that complaints may seem like a simple response to something as egregious as police brutality or an abuse of power but having a clear record of misconduct on file is important to preventing further abuses or harassment from occurring. With a thorough and skilled attorney at your side, you may even be able to have the officer in question suspended or fired.
Beyond filing a complaint, if your civil rights were violated, you may be eligible for a Section 1983 claim, otherwise known as a civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. These civil cases do not require you to prove evidence of a monetary cost, only that the officers violated your civil rights and caused unnecessary emotional distress. However, these cases must also contend with what is referred to as “qualified immunity.” Plainly put, qualified immunity means that if an officer was acting within the range of his or her duties, then a suspect’s rights were not violated, and thus the officer is free from litigation.
Overcoming qualified immunity and holding officers accountable for misconduct or brutality is not a clear-cut process, but with an experienced attorney like Michael Guisti at your side, you may have a shot at it.
Your Right, Our Fight
The Law Office of Michael L. Guisti has seen first-hand how Orange County officers can violate a suspect’s constitutional rights through an abuse of power or excessive force. Attorney Guisti has personally been witness to harassment by police officers and successfully pushed back against officers who committed misconduct, including when it leads to a suspect’s death.
If you have been victimized by the police or have a loved one who has been abused by officers, you may have grounds to take legal action and should not hesitate to contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti today. Let us help you explore your legal options in a confidential appointment at our Irvine office. The number to dial is (714) 530-9690.
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Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.