What is Police Misconduct?

We entrust our police force with powers not available to other members of the community. In the lawful exercise of their duties, police officers may physically restrain another individual and even cause physical injury and property damage. Law enforcement officers are immune from lawsuits unless their actions can be shown to be willful and unreasonable. An officer who goes beyond the limits of his authority may be in violation of the law, police department regulations, and the U.S. Constitution. When the police exceed their authority and affect the rights of others, they may be liable for police misconduct. Victims of police misconduct may seek civil rights remedies as well as other damages under federal and state law.

Types of Police Misconduct

Police misconduct is a fairly broad concept that may include a variety of willful and unreasonable behaviors. In general, it arises from conduct that is unconstitutional, unethical, illegal, or in violation of departmental guidelines. At its most severe, police misconduct may involve police brutality that causes serious injury or even death. Other instances of police misconduct may include:

  • Sexual abuse of a suspect.
  • Falsifying evidence: this may consist of planting evidence at a crime scene or making up false witness statements.
  • False arrest/malicious prosecution: this occurs when police officers place a person in custody who they know to be innocent.
  • Coercing false confessions.
  • Intimidation
  • Corruption
  • Racial profiling.
  • Surveillance abuse.
  • Police drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Unlawful use of law enforcement databases for purposes of cyber-stalking and e-mail hacking.
  • Failure to Intervene: police officers are obligated to protect citizens from constitutional violations committed by fellow officers. Officers who witness such misconduct and fail to intervene may be liable to the victim for damages.

Police misconduct is not always easy to prove. A lawsuit for this type of behavior should be filed by an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of the law. Mere negligence or the failure to exercise due care will not be enough to hold an officer liable for police misconduct.

Contact An Attorney

If you or a loved one has been a victim of police misconduct, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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What is Police Brutality?

Law enforcement officers are granted broad police powers on behalf of the citizens they serve. Unlike ordinary members of the community, police officers are allowed to engage in activity that interferes with the rights of others, even if it causes physical harm. As long as officers are acting within the proper scope of their duties, they will likely be granted immunity from civil prosecution for any harm caused. Police power is not unlimited, however. Law enforcement officers are bound by the law, the U.S. Constitution and by certain rules and regulations that govern their behavior.

Excessive Force

Police officers are permitted to use force in order to arrest an individual and protect themselves and the community. But the force must be reasonable. This means it must be the least amount of force necessary to control the situation and accomplish police objectives. The use of excessive force may represent police brutality if it directly violates a person’s constitutional right to be free of undue restraint upon his liberty. Lawsuits for police brutality often arise from the excessive use of force. There is no single, clear definition of police brutality. The question of whether police activity involves excessive use of force depends upon the specific facts of each case.

Examples of Police Brutality

Excessive use of force may be illustrated by the following situations. These are only a few of the possible scenarios created by police brutality.

  • Striking, kicking or otherwise injuring a person who has already been restrained.
  • Use of res training techniques that cause the suspect to have difficulty breathing. These actions may result in severe injury or death.
  • Use of pepper spray to disperse nonviolent, peaceful protesters.
  • Shoving or grabbing bystanders who are observing but not directly involved in a police incident.
  • Striking, kicking or otherwise injuring a suspect who is not resisting arrest, or whose resistance can be easily overcome with a minimum use of force.

Lawsuits for Police Brutality

Proving that an officer used excessive force can be difficult. Nowadays, however, the use of cell phone videos makes police brutality more visible and more difficult for the police to refute. Still, video recordings, as well as witness statements, must be carefully preserved and evaluated by a legal expert.

If you or a loved one has been victimized by police brutality or another type of police misconduct, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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What is False Arrest?

Police may not arrest an individual, seize property relating to an alleged crime, or conduct a search of a person or premises without probable cause. With proper authority, police can be said to have adequate reason to conduct a search, an arrest or a seizure of property. Probable cause to arrest stems from an officer’s knowledge of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Probable cause may not arise simply from a police officer’s suspicion or hunch. Instead, it must be grounded in facts or circumstances that would cause a reasonably prudent person to believe:

  • That the person to be arrested has committed the crime.
  • That the place to be searched is the scene of a crime.
  • That the place to be searched contains evidence of a crime.
  • That the property to be seized is stolen, contraband, or otherwise constitutes evidence of a crime.

Lack of Probable Cause

Normally, police have legal authority to deprive a person of his or her freedom of movement. A police officer who arrests a person without probable cause or who knows the person to be innocent of criminal activity may be liable for false arrest. A person deprived of his liberty due to false arrest may also be wrongfully detained for a period of time. An individual who is falsely arrested may file a lawsuit against the arresting officer, the police department and the municipality for damages. Such damages may include mental distress, injury to reputation resulting in financial loss, and loss of salary while wrongfully detained .

Filing a Lawsuit

False arrest can be humiliating, emotionally devastating and expensive. However, holding a police officer liable for false arrest can be complicated. The police officer must have deliberately detained someone with no actual knowledge that the suspect committed a crime. Even arrests that turn out to be unjustified cannot be classified as false arrest if they were made with the proper legal authority. Allegations of false arrest should be carefully evaluated by a competent attorney who is familiar with the types of facts and damages involved in false arrest and other police misconduct cases.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of false arrest, contact the attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free initial consultation. For your convenience, we maintain four offices throughout New York City. Call (646) 647-3398 or contact us online.

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Pharmacy Negligence: Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents often have multiple health problems that require several types of medication. While this is to be expected, some of the drugs routinely given to nursing home patients do not seem reasonable at all. Among the institutionalized elderly, the rate of prescribed sedatives , anti-depressants and anti-psychotics is shockingly high and of grave concern.

In too many instances, overworked staff find it easier to drug a patient with behavior problems than to deal with the effects. It is not unusual for a nursing home resident with dementia who refuses to be showered, dressed or groomed, to be dosed with strong anti-psychotic medications. In nursing homes nationwide, at least 40% of claims submitted for anti-psychotic drugs are inappropriate or unnecessary, or given in excessive doses for too long a time without adequate monitoring.

Risks of Excessive and Improper Medication

Elderly people who take anti-psychotic drugs increase their chances of experiencing a seizure. Those who already have a medical history of seizures may be severely injured by anti-psychotic drugs which can cause further seizures as well as irregular heartbeat. In nursing homes, medications prescribed for the wrong reasons, in questionable dosages and in unsafe combinations can create adverse drug reactions, accidents and death.

Incidences of Prescription Error

Nursing home pharmacists are responsible for reviewing patient medications and preventing potentially lethal medication mistakes. A recent study of California nursing homes found that more than half the pharmacists investigated had approved or overlooked inappropriate prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs and ignored dangerous irregularities in drug dosages and combinations. Under California law, consulting pharmacists who work for nursing homes are required to conduct monthly reviews of patient medication charts. In 90 percent of cases, pharmacists failed to identify misuse of anti-psychotic drugs.

A Cause of the Problem

California investigators discovered a possible link between inadequate patient medication review and nursing home failure to pay a fair market rate for pharmacist services. In a majority of facilities where patients received anti-psychotic medications, pharmacists were paid below-average fees for their services. Although the average pay rate for California pharmacists is $56.29 per hour, some nursing homes billed as little as $11 an hour for their services. Investigators suspect that some pharmacists, in clear violation of the state’s anti-kickback law, were recouping their financial losses by endorsing and extending prescriptions for expensive and potentially harmful drugs.

Nursing home resident advocates argue that pharmacists who compromise their integrity and independence cannot adequately perform their protective function in regard to patient prescription care. They also call for limiting and regulating use of anti-psychotic drugs in California’s nursing homes.

If you believe your loved one has been improperly medicated in a nursing home or otherwise harmed by pharmacy negligence, contact the Orlow firm for a professional, compassionate consultation.

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Your Legal Rights When a Loved One Dies

There is nothing more terrible or heartbreaking for a parent to experience than the loss of a child. This death becomes even more difficult to understand and make peace with if it happens as a consequence of someone else’s bad acts.

Take, for example, the case of Daniel Halliday, a nine-year-old from Kingman, Arizona. Daniel died after the car he was riding in was hit by a pickup truck driven by Tina Michelle Means. Blood tests revealed that Means had a .26 blood alcohol level at the time of the crash. A jury recently sentenced her to 30 years in prison for Daniel’s death and civil lawsuits are pending.

In situations such as this, loved ones may consider filing a wrongful death suit.

About New York Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims may be filed in any situation in which one person’s negligent acts cause the death of another. This includes motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents and deaths attributed to dangerous products, for example. Wrongful death actions may be filed against a person, business, company or other organization. For example, if a person is killed by a driver who had too much to drink at the local watering hole, then the victim’s family could possibly bring a wrongful death claim against the driver as well as the bar that furnished the alcohol to the driver.

Parties can also file wrongful death actions against a local or state government agency if a government employee is responsible for the death. This includes situations in which a government worker is driving a city-owned vehicle and causes an accident that results in the death of another person.

Wrongful death actions are meant to help family members recover some of the unexpected expenses that may come with a loved one’s untimely death, like medical bills, funeral costs and attorney fees as well as other pecuniary losses (i.e. actual monetary losses). Examples of pecuniary losses include loss of future support, loss of future services and loss of parental guidance.

If the decedent is a child, pecuniary losses can be harder to determine, but generally include things such as the parent’s current and future loss of the child’s assistance and services.

In general, wrongful death claims are not meant to help families recover for their own non-pecuniary losses, sometimes referred to as non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of companionship and consortium.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

In New York, only a personal representative of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim. Usually this is the executor of the decedent’s estate, but if there is no executor or if the executor refuses to bring the claim on the behalf of the family, then the family can petition the court to name a personal representative for them.

A cause of action for wrongful death only can be maintained if the decedent would have been able to bring a legal claim for his or her losses against the responsible party had he or she lived. For example, if the decedent was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver, the decedent would have been able to sue the drunk driver for damages had he or she lived. But if the decedent was the drunk driver and died as a result of hitting another person’s car, then a wrongful death action generally could not be brought on behalf of the decedent because the decedent’s bad acts caused the accident.

A family does not lose the right to bring a wrongful death claim if the person responsible for their loved one’s death also dies, whether as a result of the same accident or due to another cause. In these cases, the family can file the wrongful death claim against the responsible person’s estate. If the wrongful death claim is successful, then the family will be paid out of the proceeds of the estate as a creditor.

Holding Wrongdoers Accountable

There is nothing that the law can do to bring back a loved one whose life has been senselessly taken by another person. The law, however, can be used to help hold the responsible party liable for their actions and to help ease some of the grieving family’s financial burden.

For more information on pursuing a wrongful death claim, contact an experienced attorney today. Under New York law, families generally only have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death action.

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