The Constitutions of the United States and the State of Connecticut guarantee that the civil rights of every Connecticut citizen are protected from unreasonable intrusion by “State Actors.” A “State Actor” is any person, Connecticut police officers for example, acting under the color of state or federal law. Among other things, you have the right:
- to be treated fairly in any encounter with the police
- to not be subjected to excessive force by the police;
- to not be arrested without probable cause; and
- to be treated fairly in the criminal justice system.
If a Connecticut State Trooper or municipal police officer has violated any of these basic civil rights, then you may be able to seek redress in Connecticut State Court or in the federal courts seated in Connecticut. Contact a Connecticut civil rights attorney at Aeton Law today for a risk-free consultation with our personal injury experts that help clients get the compensation they deserve throughout CT.
Connecticut State Civil Rights Claims v. Federal Civil Rights Claims
Both Connecticut and the United States offer civil rights protections to Connecticut residents. A Civil Rights attorney will evaluate each particular situation, from stop to arrest and after, to determine exactly which type of civil rights case to bring, and where. Your claim may arise under Connecticut law, including the Connecticut Constitution; under federal law, including the United States Constitution; or under both State and Federal law.
For example, if you are stopped in New Haven county and are subjected to the use of excessive force by the Connecticut State Police, or any local police department, then you may have a claim under federal law or Connecticut law. Your civil rights attorney will first decide who the proper defendants are and then decide whether to bring the lawsuit in the Judicial District of New Haven or the federal District Court, District of Connecticut.
Identifying the Proper Connecticut Defendant for Civil Rights Abuses
Possible defendants in civil rights cases include the individual police officers or state troopers, the municipal police department, or the State of Connecticut itself. It is crucial for your civil rights attorney to identify the proper defendants and claims because these determine what “notice” may have to be provided to the defendants prior to bringing a lawsuit.
For example, if you have a claim against the Hartford Police Department or any of its officers for arresting you without probable cause, then you may have to file a notice with the City of Hartford within a certain period of time before filing your claim. If you have a claim against the State of Connecticut for assault or excessive force under Connecticut’s Constitution, then you may have to bring a claim to the Connecticut Claim’s Commissioner before filing a lawsuit.
A Connecticut Civil Rights attorney should be able to help you navigate these issues and bring the proper claim in the proper place. Allowing a notice period to lapse could lead to a waiver of your potential claims. As such, it is important to act quickly if you believe your civil rights have been violated.
Federal Civil Rights Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S. Code § 1983 is a federal law that specifically permits a private cause of action against any municipal, local or state police officer for a violation of federal constitutional rights. It reads:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress…”
Generally, this important legislation is the mechanism to enforce one’s civil rights against state actors and helps circumvent the immunity they might otherwise be unfairly protected by. It does not only apply to abuse by police officers. Instead, it encompasses violations of any civil right conferred by the United State’s Constitution or the laws of the United States against any state actor, including municipal employees and officials. A Civil Rights attorney will likely start an analysis of abuse of civil rights claim, such as excessive force or police brutality, with an analysis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Excessive Force Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Some of the most difficult civil rights claims that a civil rights attorney may bring are called “Excessive Force” cases against police officers. These may be referred to as “police brutality” cases. A citizen’s right to be free of “excessive force comes from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and many state Constitutions. As indicated above, 42 U.S.C § 1983 permits a cause of action against a Connecticut police officer or State Trooper for a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and “seizures.” Force, including deadly force, is considered a seizure, and must therefore be reasonable. However, the reason these cases are so difficult to bring, and win, is because reasonableness is subjective, and police officers are permitted in many scenarios to assault and use physical force against citizens of the state of Connecticut. A Connecticut Civil Rights attorney will analyze the “totality of the circumstances” surrounding your claim including: the amount of force applied; the nature of the alleged crime the officer was responding to; the actions of the person upon whom the police officer was applying force; and, among other things, the availability of other types of restraint.
If you believe that your rights have been violated call Aeton Law Partners for a free and confidential consultation. Call 860.724.2160 to speak to one of our Civil Rights Attorneys.