Phoenix Civil Rights Lawyers
We count on police officers to make the right decisions to protect us and enforce the law, no matter the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes police officers are too quick to use their guns and people get hurt or killed.
This may be an ongoing problem in Phoenix, as the Phoenix Police Department had the highest number of shootings and fatalities among all law enforcement agencies in 2020 and 2021. By the end of August 2021, seven people had been killed by Phoenix police. Despite protests and significant media coverage of police-involved deaths in recent years, from coverage of George Floyd’s death to the shooting of Breonna Taylor, people around the country have questions about excessive use of force.
If the police made the wrong decision on the use of force, the victims or their families may have legal options. The Phoenix civil rights lawyers at Phillips Law Group are ready to discuss your situation in a 100 percent free consultation that comes with no obligation to pursue a case. If a police officer violated your or your loved one's civil rights, he or she should be held accountable. You could be eligible for compensation for the damages you have suffered. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge of the laws affecting these cases, including the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and Arizona statutes on the use of deadly force by police officers.
Laws That Apply to Police Shootings
Our Phoenix civil rights lawyers may be able to file a lawsuit citing violations of Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 or Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) §13-410 Justification; use of deadly physical force in law enforcement.
This law applies to situations when someone who was acting under color of state-level or local law deprived someone of rights created by federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution. This law allows you to sue the government for civil rights violations.
The phrase "under color of" means the accused was acting as a representative of the state when the victim was deprived of civil rights. Police officers using excessive force fit this definition.
Judges will consider various factors to determine if a police officer fits this definition:
- He or she was on duty
- He or she was wearing a police officer uniform
- He or she used handcuffs or other police equipment
- He or she arrested someone
- He or she claimed to be an officer or flashed a badge
When a shooting takes place during an arrest, courts normally decide the officer was acting under color of state law.
Under Arizona law, the use of deadly physical force by law enforcement against someone else is justified only when the officer reasonably believes use of deadly force is necessary for one of two purposes:
- Self-defense or to defend a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force
- Arresting or preventing the escape of someone the officer reasonably believes:
- Committed, attempted to commit or is committing or attempting to commit a felony involving a deadly weapon or threatening to use a deadly weapon to commit a felony
- Is trying to get away by using a deadly weapon
- Based on past or present conduct, the individual in question is likely to endanger human life or inflict severe bodily injury to someone else unless the person is promptly apprehended
- Use of deadly force is necessary to lawfully suppress a riot if the person is participating in a riot using a deadly weapon
This statute also says peace officers are justified in using deadly physical force when the officer believes it is necessary to protect himself or herself against another person's potential use of deadly physical force or physical force.
Another Arizona statute that may apply to police shooting cases is 12-820.02. This statute says public employees, such as police officers, cannot be held liable for acting within the scope of their employment unless they were grossly negligent or intended to cause injury.
States have these types of laws because police would have a difficult time doing their jobs if they could be sued every time an individual suffered an injury. This means police officers may be immune to claims from victims if they can prove they were acting in good faith to carry out their official duties. This is one of the main defenses police officers and their departments use when victims of shootings and their families try to take legal action.
Lawmakers at the federal level have considered trying to end qualified immunity, which protects police officers from liability unless victims can prove the officer violated an established law. In 2020, representatives Justin Amash (L-Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) introduced a bill (The Ending Qualified Immunity Act) to end the doctrine qualified immunity.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and it sought to place limits on qualified immunity as a defense. It also proposed to lower the criminal intent standard for convicting a law enforcement officer.
Dozens of states have tried to end qualified immunity. While several bills became law, some strengthened qualified immunity. Colorado was the only state where qualified immunity was completely barred. Iowa and Arkansas strengthened this defense.
The civil rights lawyers in Phoenix at Phillips Law Group have an in-depth understanding of the laws on police conduct and how they apply to your case. We have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation of the shooting to determine what happened and when a police officer acted unlawfully.
Contact Phillips Law Group for a free, no obligation legal consultation.
Review of Officer-Involved Shootings
When a law enforcement officer uses lethal force, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (MCAO) is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond and begin a complete and thorough investigation. MCAO has experienced detectives who are ready to assist a prosecutor with critical incident investigations.
Once the investigation is finished, the MCAO Officer-Involved Shooting Committee will conduct a comprehensive and objective review of the investigation to find out if the officer acted lawfully. The committee also makes a recommendation to the County Attorney who makes a final decision about whether or not the shooting was lawful. The involved law enforcement agency, investigative agency and involved employees are given the decision in writing.
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a police shooting, contact a licensed Phoenix civil rights lawyer today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. We are committed to holding law enforcement accountable and pursuing compensation for the damages you suffered.
Contact Phillips Law Group today by calling 1-800-706-3000.
Filing a Lawsuit Over a Police Shooting
Arizona has specific deadlines and notice requirements for claims against public officials, such as police officers. Under A.R.S. §12-821.01, public entities must be notified of your claim within 180 days of the incident in question. The notice you provide them must contain:
- A specific demand
- Facts that allow the public entity to understand the basis for liability
- Information supporting the damages you are claiming
When you notify the officer of the claim, the government has a chance to settle outside of court, which is what often happens in these situations. Typically, police officers and police departments want to avoid the added attention of a trial, so they offer a cash settlement.
If the public entity makes no response within 60 days of receiving the notice, the claim is considered denied. This usually means the public entity thinks your claim does not have merit.
If this happens, you are allowed to file a lawsuit in state court. State law says actions against public entities or employees must be filed within one year of the cause of action accruing.
Damages for a Police Shooting Lawsuit
Some states place caps on damages you can receive in a personal injury lawsuit. However, Arizona does not cap the economic or noneconomic damages our Phoenix civil rights attorneys may be able to recover. This means you might be able to recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment
- Lost wages
- Lost financial support
However, Arizona law says courts are prohibited from awarding punitive damages in these cases.
Filing a police-shooting lawsuit is an incredibly complex process and building a case can be very difficult. These claims will likely be strongly opposed by attorneys who specialize in defending against these claims. This is why you could greatly benefit from having a civil rights attorney in Phoenix on your side who knows the law and how to contend with a strong defense.
Our experienced attorneys know how devastating it can be to lose a loved one in a police shooting that was unjustified. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today to discuss what happened so we can determine your legal options. There is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, so it is best to contact us as soon as possible.
Fill out a Free Case Evaluation form today.
Contact a Qualified Phoenix Civil Rights Lawyer Today
Have you lost a loved one in a police shooting?
Our Phoenix civil rights attorneys understand the pain people feel after the tragic loss of a loved one. We are ready to build a strong case and hold any negligent police officer accountable. We are committed to pursuing the maximum compensation on your behalf.
Your consultation with our attorneys is completely free and comes with no obligation to pursue a case. This means there is no risk to you in contacting us. However, you should contact us soon because we have limited time to pursue justice for you and your family.
Our Phoenix office is located at 3101 North Central Avenue, just 15 minutes from Phoenix location of the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse.