Law enforcement officers in Michigan are granted broad powers to perform their duties. They are limited, though, by the U.S. Constitution and other laws. When police officers violate the rights of citizens, those citizens may be able to turn to state or federal laws for recourse. Among the primary purposes of civil rights regulations is the protection of citizens from abuse by government officials. Recovery for victims of police misconduct often includes compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Police officers are generally immune from lawsuits related to the performance of their duties unless they have engaged in unreasonable willful conduct. Liability will not be established in cases where officers have merely failed to exercise due care, meaning negligence is not enough in most cases. The civil rights law most often relied upon by victims of misconduct is Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code. It was originally part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Section 1983 makes it illegal for any official acting based on the authority of state law to deprive someone of his or her Constitutional or federal rights. Claims commonly brought against law enforcement officers include false arrest, malicious prosecution and use of excessive force. False arrest is a claim that police have violated the person’s right against unreasonable seizure as granted by the Fourth Amendment.

The victim of a malicious prosecution must demonstrate that the officer initiated a criminal proceeding without probable cause, with malice, and that the case did not result in a conviction. Whether excessive force was used is a question that depends on the specific facts of the case. An attorney with experience in criminal law may be able to help in cases of police misconduct by determining whether rights have been violated.