South Georgia Police Brutality Attorney

Police Brutality and Misconduct

A police or sheriff department is required to protect and serve its citizens, not put them in danger, injure them or engage in offensive behavior. In order to protect innocent and vulnerable citizens, police or sheriff departments must have rules, policies and systems in place that ensure that its employees have the proper training and tools at their disposal to make encounters with citizens as safe as possible for themselves, the citizens they encounter and innocent bystanders.

When police officers and police departments hurt or kill the very people they are sworn to serve and protect, we will demand accountability and change.

Civil rights law is the focuses on protecting an American’s Constitutional Rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, as well as the 13th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. What rights do we protect? Your rights to due process, equal treatment under the law of all people regarding enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and protection. Some of the areas we focus on are: First Amendment / Freedom of Expression (Free Speech), Police Misconduct / Police Brutality, Wrongful Convictions / Wrongful Arrest, Due Process Violations and Wrongful Detention / Cruel and Unusual Punishment Cases.



Automobile Accident

$2.6 Million Jury Verdict against Volusia County. Trial televised on Good Morning America

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Personal Injury

$2.6 Million Verdict against Volusia County, televised on Good Morning America.

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Medical Malpractice

Confidential settlement of over 100 cases against a pediatric dentist who faces prosecution for fraud based on abuse of children.

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Police Brutality and Misconduct

Violating a person’s civil rights is a federal offense under Section 1983 of The Civil Rights Act, which states that it is unlawful for anyone acting under the authority of state law to deprive others of their rights under the Constitution or federal law. This encompasses unequal treatment or harassment by a boss as well as discrimination on the basis of race. Other common civil rights violations involve claims of:

  • Sexual discrimination;
  • Hate crimes;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Violations of the freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly;
  • Religious discrimination;
  • Housing discrimination;
  • Wage and hour violations;
  • Discrimination based on age; and
  • National origin discrimination.

While all civil rights violations are reprehensible, a recent surge in the number of reported police brutality cases has drawn national attention to law enforcement procedures regarding physical restraint of a civilian. Some of the most common claims brought against police officers involve:

  • False arrest;
  • Malicious prosecution; and
  • Excessive force.

Of late, the use of excessive force by law enforcement agencies has received a significant amount of media attention, which has led to a public outcry against government and state officials using their influence to unlawfully injure civilians. Some of the most recently reported examples of police brutality include:

  • The unnecessary use of stun guns;
  • The use of chokeholds;
  • Beatings; and
  • Fatal shootings.

What is Excessive Force?

While proving that an officer used excessive force can be difficult, it is not impossible. The largest hurdle relates to police officers’ qualified immunity, which provides that as long as police officers act within the scope of their discretionary authority, they will be protected from prosecution unless the conduct violates a legal standard.

Although law enforcement officers are legally allowed to use the degree of force necessary to subdue a person under arrest, federal law prohibits them from using excessive or unnecessary force because it violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures. However, what qualifies as reasonable force varies depending on the circumstances of each case. For this reason, courts apply a balancing test to determine whether an objectively reasonable officer would have found it necessary to use the same level of force in the same or similar situation. During this analysis, courts do not take an officer’s considerations and motivations into account, but instead analyze a number of factors, including:

  • The severity of the crime in question;
  • Whether the arrestee posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer; and
  • Whether the arrestee made any attempts to resist or evade arrest.

If a court establishes that the situation did not warrant the force used by an officer, meaning that he or she violated the legal standard of using reasonable and appropriate force, then the officer’s qualified immunity will not protect him or her from suit.

Other police or corrections officers can also be charged with a failure to intervene and prevent the use of excessive force by another officer. In these cases, the plaintiff must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that:

  • A third person violated the plaintiff’s constitutional or federal rights;
  • The defendant had a duty to intervene;
  • The defendant had a reasonable opportunity to intervene; and
  • The defendant failed to intervene.

Generally, judges instruct juries that police and corrections officers have a preexisting duty to prevent the use of excessive force by another officer.  

Tips in Case You Have Been in an Accident:

Get to a doctor and document your injuries. Not only does being proactive help your health, but insurance carriers and their lawyers always look to use evidence against you- how long you took to get to a doctor, what you complained about or didn’t complain about and they will comb through your records in painful detail. Go to the doctor, be honest and detailed.

Fill out any available accident reports and police reports. Ask for a copy. Then, call your insurance carrier and make a claim. Be careful what you say. All too often, injury victims will say they are “fine” or “not that bad” or otherwise be polite and that will haunt then if their injuries take a turn for the worse. The ER will only really tell you if you have broken bones or major issues, but go and be honest. Hospital emergency rooms tend to leave the bulging discs, herniated discs, shoulder tears and the like to later treating doctors.

Many of our clients are hurting, struggling and hoping they get better, but aren’t. You get one shot at recovery. Lawyers must make sure the insurance companies are acting fairly. John worked for eight years defending these claims for these companies and big businesses and could write a book about ways they use your desire to be fair and reasonable against you. He now solely works for injury victims like you.

While all lawyers are allowed to advertise and anyone can basically handle a personal injury case, only Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyers are allowed to identify themselves as an “expert” or as “specialist” in this area. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the area by the Supreme Court of Florida. It also means the lawyer is known for trials- pushing beyond low offers by defendants, passed a peer review and passed a tough exam. Most cases do not get that far, but it is good to have a lawyer with all of the tools in their arsenal.

Insurance carriers try to negotiate every dollar they can, because every $100 means millions in the end to their Board of Directors. Attorneys matter. Defendants and their carriers change their game plan when an experienced lawyer is involved. For that reason – and the misinformation by TV lawyers and referral services- is why people should select lawyers carefully. Also, make sure it is the lawyer who shows up to meet with you and not a mere investigator. You are haring a lawyer and deserve their time. Also, ask for sample closing costs. Some lawyers charge for faxes, phone calls, scanning, postage, “in house courier” charges and even interest in these charges.

Because of the economy, more lawyers are jumping into personal injury and should stick to what they know. Personal injury law requires knowledge about medical science and biomechanics (the forces on a body in a wreck or a fall) far greater and more specific than you’d think. The other side has doctors and millions on their side to say nothing is wrong or fight the claim.

Necessary Evidence

Civil rights provide an important balance between protecting the rights of individuals and preserving law and order. Unfortunately, bringing these claims can be expensive and time-consuming as they require a significant amount of evidence, including:

  • Police reports;
  • Photographs of injuries caused by the police;
  • Torn or stained clothing from the incident;
  • Contact information from anyone who witnessed the event; and
  • Video recordings of the incident.

Preserving evidence from the encounter is a key part of any police brutality claim and can make all the difference in the outcome of a case.

Despite the difficulty involved, it is important for victims to file claims against police officers for their use of excessive force, as it can help instigate an overhaul of local police procedures and prevent similar actions in the future. It also gives victims who suffered expensive and painful injuries the opportunity to receive medical care without going into debt.

What Are the Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Police Misconduct Case?

If you can prove negligence on behalf of the other party, you may be able to recover compensation for damages, including those for loss of earnings, property damage, past and future medical expenses, and more.

To collect these types of compensatory damages, a plaintiff will need to demonstrate that he or she experienced actual monetary loss as a result of the defendant’s actions. For this reason, it is important for victims of excessive force to retain all records documenting their injuries, all treatments received and paid for, and bills associated with other injury-related costs. If this evidence is preserved a plaintiff may also be able to recover damages for the following:

  • Physical harm experienced by the plaintiff, which includes ill health, physical pain, and discomfort;
  • Emotional and mental harm, including fear, humiliation, and mental anguish caused by an officer’s use of excessive force; and
  • The reasonable value of legal services needed and obtained.

In cases involving abuse committed by a correctional officer against an inmate, the injured party may also be able to receive a sum that represents the value of each day of additional confinement that he or she experienced as a result of an officer’s actions.

Contact a Dedicated Civil Rights/Police Abuse Attorney Today

While many police officers are careful to follow procedure and treat arrestees with respect and care, others are not as concerned with the welfare of civilians. This, combined with a lack of oversight, training, and supervision can have devastating consequences, including injury and even death. Fortunately, under both federal and state law, officers who exhibit this type of behavior can be held accountable for their actions, so if you live near Chatham or Glynn Counties and were recently involved in a confrontation with a law enforcement officer and have reason to believe that he or she used excessive force, please contact the Law Offices of John M. Phillips by completing one of our online contact forms or by calling (904) 444-4444 and a member of our legal team will help you set up a free consultation with an experienced civil rights attorney who can evaluate your case and help you seek the compensation you deserve.


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