New York City Law Blog

Your Civil Rights Are Precious

You are entitled to be treated civilly, even if you are under arrest

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  • Law posted:Uncategorized
  • Date:July 27, 2018

New York City is one of the centers of modern civilization, and I am proud that I am here. However, we also know that the level of civility differs by neighborhood, especially, alas, in the way in which police officers sometimes exceed their authority to use force.

If you have lived in the city for any length of time, it is likely you have heard of at least one story of a police encounter that left someone intimidated. Officers are often physically imposing and trained in various martial disciplines, including the use of deadly force. Eric Garner was killed by a police officer who used a chokehold – a use of force outlawed by the police department itself years ago. This power clouds the judgment of certain individuals on the force, and their brethren will rush in, use excessive force, leaving the citizen injured, bloodied or sometimes maimed or killed. Deëscalation techniques, proven effective, are rarely used. The police have their own culture in dealing with the public and a number of its members don’t care if one of their arrestees are bloodied along the way.

If you are the victim of police misconduct, if you want to sue for excessive force, you must defeat any charge of disorderly conduct or assault on a police officer – often added as charges in order to preëmpt a charge of misconduct. And while you can always sue for excessive force, a charge that you were rowdy or disorderly will be used against you – so don’t take a please to disorderly conduct if you didn’t commit it.

And remember, an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) is often a way for courts to manage their dockets. Public defenders say it is the same as a dismissal. Not true. An ACD will end up as a dismissal if you stay out of trouble for six months, but the courts have held that in the civil context, nothing short of an outright dismissal is what is known as a “termination in favor of the accused,” which will allow you to sue for malicious prosecution – which is what the police are doing when they charge you with offenses you didn’t commit, such as assault or disorderly conduct, in order to cover for their use of brutality.

NEVER resist arrest.

In our society, one governed by a law written by democratically elected representatives, we believe that those with strength and the special permission to use it should be held to the highest standards of conduct. However, we continue to see our clients encounter supposedly well-trained police officers who abuse professional privileges. We see it as our civic duty to curtail this behavior, and we do so by the tenacious representation of our clients in police brutality cases.

While the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD conducts investigations into this matter and has various plans on how to control police violence, you can see from internal documents that even this official body recognizes the problem of the longstanding history of aggression in the city. While it might seem counterintuitive, we see ourselves as working with the police — at least those individuals within the force who would build a society in which everyone could see law enforcement professionals as helpful rather than fearful. Please read more on our main site.

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