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Police Brutality & Misconduct
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List of Possible Charges That Can be Brought Against a Police Officer

Police officers are citizens like anyone else, though they have broad powers as police officers to protect people and to enforce the law. If their conduct exceeds their authority, then criminal charges may be brought against them.

Non-Criminal Charges

Police officers sometimes do commit certain unlawful acts while acting under their authority, which in many instances do not result in criminal charges but in disciplinary action such as racial profiling, falsifying information on a search warrant, planting evidence on suspects, harassing certain groups, or fabricating reasons for detaining people or drivers to justify arrests.

These offenses, along with official acts that may constitute false arrest, malicious prosecution, falsifying evidence, or even committing perjury in court or while submitting an arrest or search warrant, are usually treated as civil rights violations, or torts. In these cases, police officers can be held civilly liable under Title 42 United States Code1983 for injuries a person sustained as a result of deprivation of a constitutional right such as the right to due process.

List of Possible Criminal Charges

It is when police officers commit acts such as the following charges that criminal proceedings may be instigated:

  • Assault and battery
  • Sexual assault
  • Misusing public funds
  • Drug dealing
  • Ticket fixing
  • Homicide

Police officers have access to evidence such as controlled substances obtained from arrests and searches and many have stolen evidence either no longer used in criminal cases or never turned over for prosecutions following search and seizures to sell in unlawful drug transactions.

Other officers under the guise of professional courtesy have fixed tickets given to other officers or other public officials or after accepting bribes. These are criminal acts and can subject the officer to prosecution.

Excessive Force

Any list of possible charges brought against a police officer includes the use of excessive force used on defendants during arrest or detention. Officers have been videotaped or witnessed by bystanders tasering defendants who have been handcuffed and no longer posing a danger, or beating up helpless defendants following traffic stops or other street detention.

Officers have been charged with murder after shooting an unarmed defendant who was not threatening them or who lied about a defendant's alleged action in reaching for a weapon. Police officers have broad latitude in protecting themselves and others in arresting someone, but they cannot cause serious bodily harm once the defendant is sufficiently restrained and is no longer a risk. Most of these cases of alleged police brutality demand a thorough examination of all the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.