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What is Excessive Force? Can it Be Battery?

Man in handcuffs

While the right for law enforcement to arrest a person involves force, anyone who is exposed to excessive force may be able to file a suit against the officer and police department.

To determine when excessive force has been used, the court will need to determine whether a reasonable officer in similar circumstances would have used the same amount of force. A certain amount of force is justifiable, but depending upon the circumstances: did the subject pose an immediate threat to bystanders or officers or were they simply running? Would it have been enough, and even possible, to tackle the suspect or use a weapon on them?

All those regarding the circumstances need to consider the moment in which force was used; that is, without the benefit of hindsight. Verbal statements made by the suspect such as threatening the police officer, are also taken into account. Whether the suspect was being arrested for a violent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor is also considered.

To file an excessive force claim, you will need to show the force used was sufficiently serious to violate your constitutional rights.

What amounts to excessive force is different between someone being arrested and a convicted prisoner. The former are protected by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches while the latter relates to the Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment. In a prison scenario, it is quite difficult to prove excessive force, especially to restore order.

Excessive force, if established, can be considered battery. Whether it is referred to as excessive force or battery depends on whether it is being measured by federal or state law. Battery is defined as an intentional physical contact made with another person without their consent. Thus, excessive force constitutes a form of civil battery.

If you have been a victim of excessive force, call a Quincy criminal defense lawyer—(617) 651-3220.