Most police officers are great public servants who do their jobs with courage and conviction. However, some officers abuse their authority and the trust we place in them by unnecessarily shooting someone, or even killing them. That's not right—and it's illegal. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits officers from using excessive force.
Minnesota Police Shooting Attorney
As a civil rights lawyer, I work in Minnesota and beyond to prosecute unlawful police shooting and excessive force claims against law enforcement officers. While these cases can be difficult, I have successfully represented victims of unlawful police shootings and excessive force in places such as Minnesota and Nevada. I commit for the long haul and have what it takes to fight for justice in these and other cases involving police misconduct.
What is an unlawful police shooting?
Unlawful police shootings occur when law enforcement officers use their firearms in a manner that is not justified under the law. Typically, an officer is only permitted to use deadly force – such as discharging a firearm – under certain circumstances, usually when the officer or another person is in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm.
Here's a more detailed look at elements and considerations regarding unlawful police shootings:
1. Use of Force Continuum: Most law enforcement agencies have a use of force continuum that details the appropriate response to a given situation. This might start with the officer's presence, escalate to verbal commands, non-lethal force methods, and only culminate in lethal force if absolutely necessary. An officer who discharges a firearm in a situation that doesn't call for such a high level of force may be engaging in an unlawful shooting.
2. Imminent Threat: As a general rule, officers are only justified in using deadly force when there is an immediate threat to themselves or others. If an officer shoots a person who is not posing an imminent threat, this could potentially be an unlawful shooting.
3. Reasonableness: The standard for evaluating an officer's use of force, including the discharge of a firearm, is reasonableness. This is based on what a reasonable officer would do under the same circumstances, taking into account the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to escape. If an officer's decision to shoot is deemed unreasonable under this standard, it could be considered unlawful.
4. Warning Shots and Shooting to Wound: In general, police are trained not to fire warning shots or to shoot to wound. If an officer fires a warning shot or intentionally shoots to wound, this could potentially be considered an inappropriate use of force.
5. Accountability: If a police shooting is deemed to be unlawful, the officer may face disciplinary action, loss of their job, or even criminal charges such as manslaughter or murder. The victim or their family may also be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the officer and/or the police department for damages.
It's important to note that the laws and regulations governing police use of force, including the use of firearms, can vary by state and by department. In any case where a police shooting occurs, a thorough investigation should be conducted to determine whether the shooting was justified under the law and under the department's use of force policy.