What are Section 1983 Claims?
The attorneys at The Stroud Law Firm are dedicated to protecting those whose constitutional rights have been violated. Section 1983 was originally designed to help African Americans, however, it can be used today in many situations, regardless of race. Section 1983 became law following the Civil War, in 1871. Although slavery had been eliminated, there were groups which did not stop intimidating and harming former slaves. Many police officers and state governments did nothing to stop those terrorizers, and, in fact, were a party to the intimidation in some instances.
Overall, Section 1983 made little impression for nearly a century, until 1961 in the case of Monroe v. Pape which arose when police officer burst into the home of Mr. Monroe, an African American man. The police ransacked Monroe’s home, were physically abusive to Mr. Monroe in the presence of his wife and children, then took him to jail. The police accused Monroe of murdering another person, although no murder charges were forthcoming. The Supreme Court held that Monroe had the right, under Section 1983, to bring a lawsuit against the police department for damages.
Not every harm suffered or every violation of rights is covered by Section 1983. There are two requirements for a Section 1983 claim; the first is deprivation of rights, privileges or immunities granted under the Constitution and laws. The second is that, under Section 1983, the violation must be “under color of state law,” or that the violation must have been committed by a state, city, county or local official. This means the person who perpetrated a violation of the rights of another was “clothed in their official authority.”
Typical Section 1983 claims include allegations involving:
- Police misconduct;
- Sexual harassment;
- Unlawful arrest;
- Warrantless arrest;
- Vindictive prosecution or arrest;
- Physical or sexual abuse;
- Police brutality;
- Civil rights violations;
- Use of excessive force, and
- Negligent actions.
Section 1983 Claims for a One-Time Violation or a Pattern of Violations
In a prison or jail setting, Section 1983 will not help with all the ways a prison official might mistreat a prisoner—that mistreatment must have violated the U.S. Constitution or a law passed by the U.S. Congress. Section 1983 can also be used to enforce rights from federal laws or statutes, only a few of which grant rights which apply to prisoners. For those confined in a state prison, any violation of the rights covered under Section 1983 is an action under color of state law.
Even a one-time action which clearly violated a prisoner’s rights can lead to a Section 1983 claim. This means that if a prison guard beats a prisoner, that prisoners Section 1983 rights have been violated and a lawsuit may be filed. There may also be a pattern or practice of certain acts, like prison guards who look the other way while one prisoner is repeatedly beaten by other prisoners.
Police Brutality or the Use of Unnecessary Force Can Result in a Section 1983 Claim
A Section 1983 claim may be brought in either a federal or state court; the right to file in federal court could offer an advantage to the plaintiff if the case is particularly high profile or political. Officials acting under color of state law are only liable for constitutional rights violations which have been clearly established. Police brutality, or the unnecessary use of excessive force are considered Section 1983 claims.
Unnecessary use of excessive force can be for something as simple as a police officer using his or her power to force a citizen to agree to an unlawful search and seizure, or something much more serious, such as using a Taser on a citizen who fails to comply with an officer’s request during a routine traffic stop. In other instances of Section 1983 violations, innocent people have been arrested, then suffered abuse while in jail. Any time a police officer or other government worker (such as a prison guard), takes advantage of the power granted to them by state, federal, county or local government, and harms a citizen, a Section 1983 claim may be warranted.
Legal Help Filing a Section 1983 Claim
In the area of criminal justice, Section 1983 can cover the Fourth Amendment (protects against unreasonable search and seizure), and the Eighth Amendment (protects against cruel and unusual punishment). It is important to note that Section 1983 cases are not always “winnable.” There are certain defenses to a Section 1983 claim such as qualified immunity, and lack of causation. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a violation of a Section 1983 claim, the attorneys at The Stroud Law Firm can help you understand your rights.
Our attorneys can advise you of your options if you have suffered a violation of your rights at the hands of a police officer, guard or jailor in Southaven, Olive Branch, Horn Lake or Desoto County. You are entitled to certain protections under Mississippi laws and the United States Constitution. When your rights have clearly been violated The Stroud Law Firm can help. Call the Stroud Law Firm today at (662) 536-5656, and get the relief and assistance you are entitled to.