The D.A. Can Do No Wrong; Prosecutorial Immunity And The Police State

The D.A. Can Do No Wrong; Prosecutorial Immunity And The Police State.

 

Preface:

The Police State Isn’t Just The Police. It’s The body politic. It’s those of us who get to sit on juries, and either condone or disapprove police actions. It’s the Judges and Justices who make the law (and don’t think for one second that it’s not all made up by the Courts). It’s Congress and state legislatures. It’s the media. It’s the politicians. It’s Hollywood. It’s any way and any form of shaping our belief system, to accept, as not only common or normal, but even as reasonable, what would have been considered police outrages and blatant violations of Constitutional rights not all that long ago. In the end, the police state is you; the voters and the jurors. It is what you tolerate; it’s what your concept of what’s reasonable, that, in the end, determines whether, and to what extent, we live in a police state or a free society. Those words often have little meaning for most of us; that is, until government abuse visits us, a friend, an associate or some loved one; something that most of us would have never expected at all.

Although any given government judicial, legislative or executive official make act otherwise as individuals, free from the dictates and pressures of their respective institutions and peers, when they act as police officers, judges and legislatures and even jurors, they act “institutionally”. Thus, politicians feel political pressure to act tough on crime, judges feel political pressure to find a way to convict / affirm the conviction of the accused, and the police feel pressured to make more and more arrests; often for victimless crimes, like drug possession.

These days, one of society’s major tool in establishing the police state, is the use of various “balancing tests”; to “balance” police intrusions and seizures of our and yours, against your long established Constitutional rights. The weight on the other pans of the justice scale, are today’s buzzword’s, such as “officer’s safety” and “national security”. Tomorrow, it will be some other justification for trampling your rights. The most blatant government efforts to violate your rights, however, are the immunities afforded those public officers, created by Judges and legislatures. Immunities don’t balance your rights; they simply erase them altogether; all in the name of “Sovereign Immunity”; “The King Can Do No Wrong”. In large part, immunities for police and prosecutorial officials have brought about today’s police state, and are essential to the maintenance of police oppression of society today.

Sovereign Immunity; Placing The Government Above The Law

Sovereign Immunity Is Inconsistent With A Basic Principle Of Our American Form Of Government: That No One, Not Even The Government, Is Above The Law.

 

Fidelity to the rule of law is the centerpiece of a free society. It means that no one is beneath the protection of the law and no one is absolved of the obligation to comply with it. The effect of sovereign immunity, however, is to place the government above the law and to ensure that many individuals who have suffered egregious harms by public officers will be unable to receive redress for their injuries. The judicial role of enforcing and upholding the Constitution is rendered illusory when the government has complete immunity to suit. Simply stated, sovereign immunity undermines the basic principle announced in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) that “[t]he very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an injury.”

 

Origins Of The Doctrine Of Sovereign Immunity; “The King Can Do No Wrong”

 

English law began not from a position of general judicial liability for damages but from a position of very limited liabilities that resulted in only nominal penalties. Moreover, the doctrine of judicial immunity was developed primarily to eliminate collateral attacks on judgments and to confine procedures in error to the hierarchy of the king’s courts; these grounds are relevant to discussions of judicial immunity today and are especially relevant to an analysis of Sparkman.

 

During the Reign of Edward I, those minimal immunities were expanded into what we recognize today as the “Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity“; that “the King can do no wrong.’” Since the time of Edward the First, the Crown of England has not been suable unless it has specifically consented to suit. Throughout American history, United States courts have applied this principle, although they often have admitted that its justification in this country is unclear.

 

A Doctrine Derived From The Premise That “The King Can Do No Wrong” Deserves No Place In American Law.

 

The United States was founded on a rejection of a monarchy and of royal prerogatives. American government is based on the fundamental recognition that the government and government officials can do wrong and must be held accountable. Sovereign immunity undermines that basic pillar of American justice. The doctrine of Sovereign Immunity is inconsistent with the United States Constitution. Nowhere does the Constitution or specifically mention or imply that the federal government has complete immunity to suit; save when it consents to be sued. Sovereign immunity cannot be found in the Constitution from an originalist perspective; even in the writing of the late Mr. Justice Antonin Scalia. See, Antonin Scalia, Historical Abnormalities in Administrative Law, in 1985 YEARBOOK 103, 104 (Supreme Court Historical Society):

 

“At the time of Marbury v. Madison [1803]there was no doctrine of domestic sovereign immunity, as there never had been in English law. As Marshall notes in passing in the portion of his opinion establishing the proposition that there is no right without a remedy: “In Great Britain, the king himself is sued in the respectful form of a petitimi, and he never fails to comply with the judgment of the court.” (Antonin Scalia, 1985).

 

Sovereign immunity is a doctrine based on a common law principle borrowed from the English common law. However, Article VI of the Constitution states that the Constitution and laws made pursuant to them are the supreme law, and, as such, it should prevail over government claims of sovereign immunity. Yet, sovereign immunity, a common lawdoctrine, trumps even the Constitution and bars suits for relief against government entities in violation of the Constitution and federal laws.”

Government accountability is inherent in the structure of the Constitution itself, and is embodied in various constitutional provisions. Long ago, in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), Chief Justice John Marshall explained that the central purpose of the Constitution is to limit the actions of government and government officers. In other words, the government is accountable for its actions. In Marbury, the Court emphasized the need for accountability and redress in its declaration that “[t]he very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an injury.” Chief Justice Marshall declared: “[t]he government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men.”
Sovereign immunity is inconsistent with all of these basic principles of the American republic. Sovereign immunity allows the government to violate the Constitution or laws of the United States without accountability. Constitutional and statutory rights can be violated, but individuals are left with no remedies:

“The very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws whenever he receives an injury. One of the first duties of government is to afford that protection. In Great Britain, the King himself is sued in the respectful form of a petition, and he never fails to comply with the judgment of his court.

In the third volume of his Commentaries, page 23, Blackstone states two cases in which a remedy is afforded by mere operation of law.

“In all other cases,” he says, “it is a general and indisputable rule that where there is a legal right, there is also a legal remedy by suit or action at law whenever that right is invaded.”

And afterwards, page 109 of the same volume, he says,

“I am next to consider such injuries as are cognizable by the Courts of common law. And herein I shall for the present only remark that all possible injuries whatsoever that did not fall within the exclusive cognizance of either the ecclesiastical, military, or maritime tribunals are, for that very reason, within the cognizance of the common law courts of justice, for it is a settled and invariable principle in the laws of England that every right, when withheld, must have a remedy, and every injury its proper redress.”

The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.

If this obloquy is to be cast on the jurisprudence of our country, it must arise from the peculiar character of the case.

It behooves us, then, to inquire whether there be in its composition any ingredient which shall exempt from legal investigation or exclude the injured party from legal redress. In pursuing this inquiry, the first question which presents itself is whether this can be arranged with that class of cases which come under the description of damnum absque injuria – a loss without an injury.” Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) (Marshall, C.J.).

Although the evil of failing to provide a remedy for violations of the rights of civilians for unlawful actions taken against them by government officials, is blatant and offensive to our American’s basic sense of justice, sovereign immunity is not fading from American law. Rather, the U.S. Supreme Court is dramatically expanding the scope of the evil shied of sovereign immunity.

This is so, even though there is no apparent Constitutional basis for sovereign immunity. See, Erwin Chemerinsky, Against Sovereign Immunity, 53 Stanford Law Review 1201, 1204 (2001). The supposedly “Originalist” / Anti-Judicial Activist / Conservative Wing of the Supreme Court has nonetheless been created new immunities for police, prosecutors and even judges; rapidly and out of thin air. Moreover, the Anti-Judicial Activist / Conservative Wing of the Supreme Court has recently enlarged and expanded a formidable barrier to redress for Constitutional violations by police officers and other public officials, by enlarging the reach of the constable’s go-to defense du jour; the doctrine of qualified immunity.

Expansion Of Sovereign Immunity To Protect State Governments From Federal Lawsuits In State Courts.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has greatly expanded the sovereign immunity of state governments from suit on federal law claims in state courts, and of state and local officials federal court. For example, in Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706 (1999), the Supreme Court held that sovereign immunity broadly protects state governments from being sued in state court without their consent, even to enforce federal laws. In Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996), the Court greatly limited the ability of Congress to authorize suits against state governments and to override sovereign immunity. The Court applied this principle within the past couple of years to bar suits against states for patent infringement and for age discrimination. Although all of these cases involve suits against state governments, the Court has indicated no willingness or likelihood of relaxing the sovereign immunity of the United States government.

Expansion Of Sovereign Immunity To Protect Local And State Officials And Governments From Lawsuits; Judicial Activism Of The Right

Immunities For Federal Constitutional Violations By Public Prosecutors; Absolute Prosecutorial Immunity

While federal law authorizes civil suits against government officers who violate constitutional and statutory rights (42 U.S.C. § 1983), the Supreme Court has insulated prosecutors against liability by holding that they are entitled to absolute immunity from civil damages for actions taken as advocates. Prosecutors may use false evidence, suppress exculpatory evidence, and elicit misleading testimony in probable cause hearings, without fear that they will be held personally liable, even if they intentionally and maliciously violate the rights of innocent people.

There is no place in American society for unchecked government power in a Constitutional Republic dedicated to the protection of individual freedom, and the human costs of prosecutorial impunity have proven staggering. There is compelling evidence that significant numbers of innocent people have been convicted and even sent to death row as a result of prosecutorial misconduct that virtually always goes unsanctioned and unpunished. Simply put, when prosecutors violate our rights, no judge-created rule should prevent them from being held civilly liable. That being said, the Supreme Court is not going to allow you to sue a public prosecutor, or someone carrying-on quasi-prosecutorial functions, no matter what they do to you, so long as what they did to you was in their role as an advocate for the government; a lawyer, or sometimes, even a Child Protective Services Worker.

Under the plain text of the Third Enforcement Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, any state actor who causes a citizen to be subjected to a violation of his/her constitutional rights can be sued. However, in Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367 (1951), Justice Frankfurter wrote: “We cannot believe that Congress … would impinge on [traditional immunities] so well grounded in history and reason by covert inclusion in the general language” of Section 1983.

In Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167 (1961), the opinion which gave birth to the revival of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (The KKK Act of 1871), also known as the Third Enforcement Act), Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the Court that Section 1983 “should be read against the background of tort liability “.

The “background of tort liability,” Id. at 188, the Court noted in Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967) includes common law defenses. Id. at 554-55 (holding that some immunities were so “well established” at common law that Congress “would have specifically so provided had it wished to abolish” them.) Thus, if “‘an official was accorded immunity from tort actions at common law when the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1871 [he will be entitled to immunity unless Section] 1983′s history or purposes nonetheless counsel against recognizing the same immunity in 1983 actions.’” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 339-40 (1986) (quoting Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 920 (1984)).

In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409 (1976), the Court held that prosecutors performing core prosecutorial functions are entitled to absolute immunity:

“The question presented in this case is whether a state prosecuting attorney who acted within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution is amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of the defendant’s constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that he is not. 500 F.2d 1301. We affirm . . .

. . . The office of public prosecutor is one which must be administered with courage and independence. Yet how can this be if the prosecutor is made subject to suit by those whom he accuses and fails to convict? To allow this would open the way for unlimited harassment and embarrassment of the most conscientious officials by those who would profit thereby. There would be involved in every case the possible consequences of a failure to obtain a conviction.

There would always be a question of possible civil action in case the prosecutor saw fit to move dismissal of the case. . . . The apprellension of such consequences would tend toward great uneasiness and toward weakening the fearless and impartial policy which should characterize the administration of this office. The work of the prosecutor would thus be impeded, and we would have moved away from the desired objective of stricter and fairer law enforcement.” Pearson v. Reed, 6 Cal.App.2d 277, 287, 44 P.2d 592, 597 (1935) See also Yaselli v: Goff, 12 F.2d at 404-406.

The common law rule of immunity is thus well settled.We now must determine whether the same considerations of public policy that underlie the common law rule likewise countenance absolute immunity under § 1983. We think they do.

If a prosecutor had only a qualified immunity, the threat of § 1983 suits would undermine performance of his duties no less than would the threat of common law suits for malicious prosecution. A prosecutor is duty bound to exercise his best judgment both in deciding which suits to bring and in conducting them in court. The public trust of the prosecutor’s office would suffer if he were constrained in making every decision by the consequences in terms of his own potential liability in a suit for damages. Such suits could be expected with some frequency, for a defendant often will transform his resentment at being prosecuted into the ascription of improper and malicious actions to the State’s advocate. Cf. Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. at 80 U. S. 348;Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. at 386 U. S. 554. Further, if the prosecutor could be made to answer in court each time such a person charged him with wrongdoing, his energy and attention would be diverted from the pressing duty of enforcing the criminal law.

Moreover, suits that survived the pleadings would pose substantial danger of liability even to the honest prosecutor. The prosecutor’s possible knowledge of a witness’ falsehoods, the materiality of evidence not revealed to the defense, the propriety of a closing argument, and — ultimately in every case — the likelihood that prosecutorial misconduct so infected a trial as to deny due process, are typical of issues with which judges struggle in actions for post-trial relief, sometimes to differing conclusions. The presentation of such issues in a § 1983 action often would require a virtual retrial of the criminal offense in a new forum, and the resolution of some technical issues by the lay jury. It is fair to say, we think, that the honest prosecutor would face greater difficulty in meeting the standards of qualified immunity than other executive or administrative officials. Frequently acting under serious constraints of time and even information, a prosecutor inevitably makes many decisions that could engender colorable claims of constitutional deprivation. Defending these decisions, often years after they were made, could impose unique and intolerable burdens upon a prosecutor responsible annually for hundreds of indictments and triais. Cf. Bradley v. Fisher, supra at80 U. S. 349.

The affording of only a qualified immunity to the prosecutor also could have an adverse effect upon the functioning of the criminal justice system. Attaining the system’s goal of accurately determining guilt or innocence requires that both the prosecution and the defense have wide discretion in the conduct of the trial and the presentation of evidence. [Footnote 23] The veracity of witnesses in criminal cases frequently is subject to doubt before and after they testify, as is illustrated by the history of this case. If prosecutors were hampered in exercising their judgment as to the use of such witnesses by concern about resulting personal liability, the triers of fact in criminal cases often would be denied relevant evidence.

The ultimate fairness of the operation of the system itself could be weakened by subjecting prosecutors to § 1983 liability. Various post-trial procedures are available to determine whether an accused has received a fair trial. These procedures include the remedial powers of the trial judge, appellate review, and state and federal post-conviction collateral remedies. In all of these, the attention of the reviewing judge or tribunal is focused primarily on whether there was a fair trial under law. This focus should not be blurred by even the subconscious knowledge that a post-trial decision in favor of the accused might result in the prosecutor’s being called upon to respond in damages for his error or mistaken judgment. [Footnote 25]

We conclude that the considerations outlined above dictate the same absolute immunity under § 1983 that the prosecutor enjoys at common law. To be sure, this immunity does leave the genuinely wronged defendant without civil redress against a 2prosecutor whose malicious or dishonest action deprives him of liberty. But the alternative of qualifying a prosecutor’s immunity would disserve the broader public interest. It would prevent the vigorous and fearless performance of the prosecutor’s duty that is essential to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system. [Footnote 26] Moreover, it often would prejudice defendants in criminal cases by skewing post-conviction judicial decisions that should be made with the sole purpose of insuring justice. With the issue thus framed, we find ourselves in agreement with Judge Learned Hand, who wrote of the prosecutor’s immunity from actions for malicious prosecution.” (Powell, J.).

Not All Actions Of A Public Prosecutor Are Immune From Liability; The Functional Test.

Prosecutorial immunity does not apply to all prosecutorial conduct. Rather, the reviewing court looks to “the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it.” Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 229 (1988). This is called the “functional test” to immunities.

When a prosecutor acts as a lawyer, as an “advocative” for the government, that is, he “act[s] within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution,” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 410 (1976), he is absolutely immune from suit. It’s a matter of first principle that a prosecutor is not entitled to absolute immunity unless he is performing an “advocative” function. In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 430-431 (1976), the Supreme Court noted the significant difference between “those aspects of the prosecutor’s responsibility that cast him in the role of an administrator or investigative officer rather than that of advocate [ ].” Thus, in Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1991) the Supreme Court held that prosecutors were absolutely immune for conduct associated with presenting evidence before a grand jury, but not for rights violations flowing from legal advice they gave to police officers. Giving legal advice to police officers (in this case, telling them that hypnotizing a witness was constitutional), was not advocative conduct. Id. at 492-96.

Thereafter, in Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259 (1993), the Supreme Court held that a prosecutor was not absolutely immune for false statements made in a press conference, and for other pre-trial investigative conduct. The Fitzsimmons court noted that “[t]he conduct of a press conference does not involve the initiation of a prosecution, the presentation of the state’s case in court, or actions preparatory for these functions.” Id. at 278. Thus, even though “[s]tatements to the press may be an integral part of a prosecutor’s job,” id. at 278 and “may serve a vital public function … a prosecutor is in no different position than other executive officials who deal with the press, and, as noted above, qualified immunity is the norm for them.” Id. (citations omitted).

More recently, in Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118 (1997), a unanimous Supreme Court held that a prosecutor who perjured herself when certifying certain facts necessary to obtain an arrest warrant was not absolutely immune from suit. Applying the functional approach to immunities, i.e., looking to “the nature of the function performed, not the identity of the actor who performed it,” Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 229 (1988), the Court asked “whether the prosecutor was acting as a complaining witness rather than a lawyer when she executed the certification [ ].” Id. at 129. The Court rejected the prosecutor’s argument “that the execution of the certificate was just one incident in a presentation that, viewed as a whole, was the work of an advocate and was integral to the initiation of the prosecution.” Id. at 130. Because “[t]estifying about facts is the function of the witness, not of the lawyer,” the prosecutor was not entitled to absolute immunity.

Supreme Court precedent thus clearly establishes that a prosecutor is not entitled to absolute immunity unless he is performing advocative conduct. The challenge is distinguishing between “those aspects of the prosecutor’s responsibility that cast him in the role of an administrator or investigative officer rather than that of advocate[ ].” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. at 430-31 (1976).

The “Advocative” Function. “Advocative” conduct includes that which is “intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 430-431 (1976). In Bernard v. County of Suffolk, 356 F.3d 495, 503 (2d Cir. 2004) a unanimous three-judge panel wrote that advocative conduct is that which “lie[s] at the very core of a prosecutor’s role as an advocate engaged in the judicial phase of the criminal process.” These “core” “Advocative”functions of a prosecutor include:

The filing of criminal charges, Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 430-431 (1976); Pinaud v. County of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139 (2d Cir. 1995), even when done in bad faith. Shmueli v. New York, No. 03-0287 (2d Cir. Sept. 15, 2005);

The presenting of evidence before a grand jury, Hill v. City of New York, 45 F.3d 653 (2d Cir. 1995);

Advocacy at a preliminary hearing, Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1991);

Accepting a plea bargain, Taylor v. Kavanagh, 640 F.2d 450 (2d Cir. 1981);

Retaining evidence pending a direct appeal, Parkinson v. Cozzolino, 238 F.3d 148 (2d Cir. 2001);

Advocating increased bail at a bail hearing, Pinuad v. County of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139 (2d Cir. 1995).

 

The “Impermissibly Intertwined” And Lack Of Jurisdiction Exceptions.

 

Even if a prosecutor is performing an advocative function, he will nonetheless be denied absolute immunity if he intertwines the exercise of his advocation function with impermissible conduct; or if he acts in excess of his statutorily-conferred jurisdiction.

 

Thus, absolute immunity will not shield him if he “has intertwined his exercise of prosecutorial discretion with other, unauthorized conduct.” Bernard v. County of Suffolk, 356 F.3d 495, 504 (2004). A prosecutor also does not have absolute immunity “for acts that are manifestly or palpably beyond his authority” or are “performed in the clear absence of all jurisdiction.” Schloss v. Bouse, 876 F.2d 287, 291 (2d Cir. 1989). To determine whether a prosecutor has authority to take some act, “a court will begin by considering whether relevant statutes authorize prosecution for the charged conduct.” Bernard v. County of Suffolk, 356 F.3d 495, 504 (2004) (holding that prosecutor engaging in an allegedly politically-motivated prosecution was nonetheless entitled to absolute immunity, since the decision to file charges was a prosecutorial function).

 

“For example, where a prosecutor has linked his authorized discretion … to an unauthorized demand for a bribe, sexual favors, or the defendant’s performance of a religious act, absolute immunity will be denied.” Id. at 504 (citing Doe v. Phillips, 81 F.3d 1204 (2d Cir. 1996). The most prominent (and perhaps one of the only published Second Circuit opinions applying the impermissibly intertwined doctrine) is Doe v. Phillips, 81 F.3d 1204 (2d Cir. 1996).

 

In Doe, a state prosecutor, Gerald D’Amelia filed felony charges against a mother for allegedly molesting her 14-year old son. Id. at 1206. After beginning to doubt the boy’s accusations, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges. But only on one condition. Doe, a Roman Catholic, was required to swear on the Bible that the son’s accusations were false. Id. at 1207 (“D’Amelia testified that he told counsel that [unless Doe swore on the Bible] criminal charges would not be dismissed against her [ ].”)

 

The panel held that even though accepting and demand a plea bargain is an advocative function, Taylor v. Kavanagh, 640 F.2d 450 (2d Cir. 1981), the prosecutor was not absolutely immune since he lacked authority to demand that Doe swear on the Bible. Because he lacked authority to demand this “intertwined conduct,” D’Amelia was not absolutely immune from suit. Id. at 1211. (“D’Amelia’s conduct was not protected by absolute immunity because his demand that Doe swear to her innocence on a bible in church was manifestly beyond his authority.”)

 

In sum, Prosecutorial Immunity, an atextual and judicially-created doctrine, shields advocative conduct from suit. Whether or not the prosecutor acted with bad faith or ill will matters not. The challenge, then, is differentiating between “advocative,” “administrative,” and “investigatory” functions. It is also worth noting that even if a prosecutor is denied absolute immunity, she might still be entitled to qualified immunity.

 

So, the next time that a Deputy District Attorney attempts to convict you for a crime that you’re innocent of, just to protect the police officer who falsely arrested you, just remember, The D.A. Can Do No Wrong.

 

Jerry L. Steering

Victorville – Apple Valley Police Brutality Attorney

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney, who defends criminal cases, and sues police officers for, among other things, the use of excessive force upon civilians (otherwise known as police brutality.) His law practice involves serving, among other places, San Bernardino County, and the San Bernardino County cities shown below; especially Victorville and Apple Valley; the two “hot spots” for outrageous police misconduct. Although the Victor Valley is not nearly as heavily populated as other areas in Southern California, the “crime rate” of crimes and Constitutional Torts committed by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is astounding. It seems that the Victor Valley is the hotbed for “cops gone wild.” These deputies in the High Desert are simply out of control, and nobody is going to do anything about; at least anybody from the Sheriff’s Department, or the Judges of the Victorville Court. These deputies “up the hill” have even been caught by a News Helicopter, beating-up a man who tried to elude them on horseback. The deputies knew that there was a Sheriff’s Department helicopter above, them, and knew that those pilots and crew would never “rat them out”. So, the beat the man who was trying to surrender to them after he had been tased. See, “Sheriff Orders Immediate Internal Investigation Into Arrest Seen on “Disturbing” Video”.

 

Although three of those group of deputies who viciously attacked Francis Pusok were criminally prosecuted (i.e. political human sacrifice), only one was convicted of assaulted Mr. Pusok. The jury hung on the other two deputies. See, “Jury finds 1 deputy guilty, deadlocks on 2 others in Apple Valley beating caught on video”.

 

Mr. Steering also represents persons in both civil and criminal case in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County and Orange County. He is an expert in brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases; both civil and criminal. Mr. Steering has successfully sued San Bernardino County police agencies successfully, for many years now. Here are a few examples of cases that Mr. Steering has won against the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department; an agency that has literally gone off of the deep end in the High Desert / Victor Valley area:

 

Trent v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2013), $600,000.00 obtained for false arrest and unreasonable force against Domestic Violence victim.

Morgan v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (1996), $714,000.00 settlement following jury verdict for excessive force and false arrest during search warrant execution in Apple Valley, California;

Austin v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, $500,000.00 jury verdict for false arrest and excessive force;

Lopez v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2002), $50,000.00 settlement for racially motivated battery;

Miller v. City of San Bernardino, et al, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2003), $35,000.00 settlement for unlawful detention;

Calderon v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2003), $115,000.00 settlement for false arrest and illegal search;

Arroyo v. City of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2004), $125,000.00 settlement for unreasonable seizure of person;

Ford v. County of San Bernardino, (2007), $80,000.00 settlement for excessive force;

In re Jane Doe v. County of San Bernardino, et al., (2008), $290,000.00 settlement (prior to filing lawsuit) for sexually motivated mistreatment of arrestee; and

Aubry v. County of San Bernardino, et. al, U.S. Dist. Court (LA) 2012, $325,000.00 settlement for the use of unreasonable force and for false arrest.

 

Having attended the University of Georgia School of Law, and having taken and passed the February 1984 Georgia Bar Exam in his last semester of Law School (while Clerking at a law firm full time and attending law school full time), in June of 1984 Mr. Steering began defending criminal cases for the law firm of Scott & Quarterman, of Athens, Georgia; the same law firm that he clerked for, full-time, for over two years. Since 1984 (in California since 1986) he has tried and litigated hundreds of criminal cases, including murder cases, manslaughter cases, assault and battery cases, drug possession / drug manufacturing cases, DUI cases, vehicular homicide cases, white-collar investor fraud cases, sex-offender or drug addict registration cases, violations of court order cases, domestic violence cases, towing industry cases, and the entire spectrum of various criminal violations.

 

NOTABLE CRIMINAL CASES IN SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, THAT MR. STEERING TURNED AROUND INTO CIVIL CASES.

 

People of the State of California v. Jonathan Osborne; Rancho-Cucamonga San Bernardino County Superior Court criminal action for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer.) Jonathan Osborne’s mother had ordered a suicide kit from a lady in San Diego, who the FBI had raided for selling the kits. The FBI found an unfilled order for the kit, so the feds called the Upland (California) Police Department to check on the welfare of the parents at the Osborne home. When the Upland Police Department showed-up at the Osborne home, the only person there was Jonathan Osborne; one of the Osborne’s sons. The police demanded entry into the home and arrested (and beat-up) Jonathan Osborne, for refusing to consent to the police officers’ demand to make a warrantless entry into the Osborne home. Notwithstanding the fact that a 1974 California Supreme Court case (People v. Wetzel, 11 Cal.3d 104 (1974)) held that it is never a crime to stand in one’s doorway and to refuse their consent to a warrantless search of one’s home, the Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office refused to dismiss the case, because they have an express policy of never dismissing cases alleging a police officer victim.

Moreover, the Upland Police Department destroyed an exculpatory audio recording of the incident that was recorded by the main Upland Police Department officer. Result: The Superior Court dismissed the case on the ground that even if everything that the police said in their reports is true, that it is never a crime to refuse to consent to a warrantless search. Note: The Osborne family sued and obtained a monetary settlement from the City of Upland, represented by the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering.

 

People of the State of California v. James Lemoine; Rancho-Cucamonga San Bernardino County Superior Court criminal action for felony assault on a peace officer and felony interference with public officer’s performance of duties. An Ontario Police Officer located Mr. Lemoine in a neighbor’s home after incident with his girlfriend, resulting in her called police on him. Mr. Lemoine attempted to flea the officer and attempted to jump through window of home to escape. Mr. Lemoine got stuck in the window sill assembly, and was shot in the back by the Ontario Police Department officer while in that position. He posed no threat to the officer, who was exonerated of wrongdoing by Ontario PD (“What’s wrong with shooting an unarmed man, stuck in a window frame, cut-up, with one leg outside and one leg inside?”) The officer claimed that Mr. Lemoine attacked him in an effort to escape; a complete fabrication; something actually quite normal for peace officers.

However, the only people who get to sit on juries in police misconduct cases, civil or criminal, have not personally witnessed police misconduct (all that have seem to always tell the court during jury selection, that the event of police misconduct that they witnessed had such a profoundly negative opinion and general distrust of, if not contempt for, peace officers, that they are actually prejudiced against peace officers in these type cases, and are, therefore, excused to sit for cause as a juror.) Therefore, the only people who are asked to judge who is lying; the defendant or the Constable, are people who believe that police don’t do bad things to people who didn’t deserve it; morally, if not legally, because they have only had positive experiences with peace officers. That’s why it’s so difficult to win in these officer vs. civilian swearing contests; notwithstanding the Constable repeatedly lying on the stand. However, it can be done, and it was done here. Hon. Ben T. Kayashima, Judge Presiding: Result: Jury Verdict: Not Guilty all Counts.


People of the State of California v. Tom Austin; Rancho-Cucamonga San Bernardino County Superior Court criminal action for resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer. Mr. Austin’s 16 year old son and his classmates were video recording a reenactment of the famous Sacco an Vanzetti armed robbery incident (that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent of, but executed for), for a High School History project. The boys wore black ski masks and carried pellet guns, and had dressed-up the Austin’s garage to resemble a bank teller window counter. Some neighbors saw the youths and (notwithstanding a youth recording the reenactment with a tripod mounted video camera outside of the garage) thought that the youths were home invasion robbers, and called the police. The youths were detained downstairs in the garage, and when Mr. Austin heard screaming (the police screaming orders to the youths) he walked downstairs to tell the youths to be quiet (to not to disturb the neighbors), and when he reached the bottom of the stairs and turned a blind corner, he saw the barrel of a policeman’s pistol pointing directly at and in front of his face. The officer ordered Mr. Austin to turn around, and when he asked the officer (who was now standing inside of Mr. Austin’s home) what was going on, the officer pepper-sprayed him in his face, handcuffed him and took him to jail. The Ontario Police officers concocted the story that Mr. Austin lunged for the officer’s gun, and that’s why he pepper-sprayed him. Mr. Steering found that a recording of the immediate post pepper-spraying activities, had been altered to conceal the true contents of the discussion between Mr. Austin and the officers. Hon. Gerard S. Brown, Judge Presiding: Result: Jury Verdict: Not Guilty (Mr. Steering later obtained a $500,000.00 jury verdict in favor of Mr. Austin, against the arresting officers, as shown below.)

People of the State of California v. Milt Holland; Rancho-Cucamonga San Bernardino County Superior Court criminal action for resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer. Mr. Holland leased the old CHP office building in Ontario, to work on prototype bus control computer system. Ontario Code Enforcement wanted to check the building to see if Mr. Holland also was residing in the same. The area was only zoned for commercial occupancy; not residential. Ontario Code Enforcement officers, along with Ontario Police Officers, approached the chained-closed padlocked rear entry entry gate of the premises, and saw Mr. Holland behind the gate; elevated; standing in a construction trailer. The officers ordered Mr. Holland to open the gate, and Mr. Holland simply walked away from the locked gate, and into the building. The officers used the “master key” (i.e. bolt cutters) to enter the yard, and arrested Mr. Holland and took him to jail for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the performance of their duties; the catch-all crime that the police use when they don’t actually have any grounds to arrest a civilian, since Section 148(a)(1) is so nebulous and ambiguous, it could be, and many many times has been, construed as meaning just about anything, and is used to arrest people who “fail the attitude test”) Click on tab, above on “Criminal Attorney – Contempt of Cop Resistance Cases”, for a more developed analysis of police misuse of Section 148(a)(1.)

 

After Mr. Holland had gone through four criminal defense lawyers, who told him to plead guilty to misdemeanor delaying / obstructing an officer (Section 148(a)(1), for not opening the gate), Mr. Holland retained Mr. Steering, who look one look at the Ontario PD report and immediately knew that even on the face of the Police Report, that there was no crime committed by Mr. Holland. On the day set for trial, Mr. Steering asked Judge Dennis G. Cole to dismiss the case on the ground that if everything that the police were contending in their reports was true, it nonetheless is never a crime to refuse an officer’s demand to search a place, thing or person, in the absence of a search warrant. If reading Mr. Steering legal authorities to support that proposition of law (See v. City of Seattle, 387 U.S. 541 (1967) and Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967) (both holding that the state can’t criminalize a mere refusal to consent to warrantless entry), Judge Cole told the District Attorney’s Office that his “case was in the toilet”. Result: Case Dismissed pursuant to Mr. Steering’s invitation to the Court, to dismiss the case on its own motion, in the interest of justice (Cal. Penal Code § 1385.)

 

Deputy Sheriff Attempts To Frame Husband And Hide Romance Wife, By Hiding The Drugs Found On Her From The DA’s Office; JANE and JOHN DOE v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. [Riverside] (2000); $50,000.00

 

In this case, Mr. Steering obtained $50,000.00 from the County of San Bernardino, for a criminal defendant’s claim against the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, for planting evidence of drug manufacturing, during the deputy’s unlawful search of a probationer’s residence; notwithstanding probation Bravo search terms. While in the process of planting evidence, the deputy sheriff actually discovered even better evidence of the very crime that the deputy sheriff was attempting to frame the defendant for. It’s like framing the guilty. That way, the police don’t need to bother with obtaining evidence against the persons who they believe are engaged in ongoing criminal enterprises (i.e. manufacturing or selling narcotics); they can just provide the evidence themselves, and save us all of the time and money incurred and expended, in investigating and obtaining competent and admissible evidence of criminal conduct that will stand-up in court.

 

When a San Bernardino County Probation Officer and Sheriff’s Department Investigator did a probation search of JOHN DOE’s residence (the “husband” was on felony drug possession probation), they saw all sorts of pornographic photos, exotic clothing and sex toys in the home, and became immediately infatuated with the beautiful occupant of the residence; JANE DOE; the cohabitant girlfriend. The Sheriff’s Department Investigator arrested JANE DOE for narcotics possession, and took her to jail; stopping on the way to jail to show-off his “catch.” Although her bail was $500,000.00, the Investigator got it reduced to release on her own recognizance (something unheard of in San Bernardino County), to attempt to date her.

 

The Investigator broke back into the DOE residence after arresting JANE DOE, as he had seen a VHS video at the home earlier marked: “XXXX.” When the Investigator then played that video at the DOE residence, he not only watched JOHN and JANE DOE having all sorts of sex, but also saw a recording of JOHN DOE cooking meth. However, there was no meth manufacturing chemicals or equipment at the house. So, in an effort to frame the guilty, the Investigator planted meth “cooking” equipment in the residence, and he and the Probation officer staked-out the house for several days, until JOHN DOE showed back-up at his home. When JOHN DOE entered the house, he was immediately arrested for meth manufacturing, based on the items planted by the Investigator, who wanted to put JOHN DOE in prison, to free-up JANE DOE for dating.

 

Mr. Steering was able to obtain $50,000.00 for the defendant from the County for the Investigator’s actions, and Mr. Steering was able to negotiate a 10 year sentence for JOHN DOE, rather than the 25 years to life sentence for a third strike drug manufacturing.

 

Police Brutality, False Arrests and Malicious Criminal Prosecutions.

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.) These beatings of innocent by police officers is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff’s Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a “Blue Code of Silence” between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.

 

In California, A Police Officer Can Beat-Up Or Murder Anyone That They Want To, Any Time That They Want To, While On-Duty.


The use of unreasonable and unlawful force in America is so rampant, that in these modern times, at least in California, a police officer can murder anyone that they want to, any time that they want to. Juries are very reluctant to convict police officers for any sort of duty related actions, such as shooting civilians. In 2010, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Shot 15 Unarmed People To Death – “Perception Shootings”. See p. 56 of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 30th Semi-Annual Report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

All that the police officers need to say is the they were afraid for their lives because their shooting victim had his hands in his pockets, or that his hands were under his body and wouldn’t show them to the officer, or that he was reaching for his waistband area. The modern police line is that if an officer either can’t see your hands or if you reach for you waist or pockets, that it’s okay to shoot the person. This is no joke. None of the shootings of the fifteen unarmed people who were shot to death by the LA Sheriff’s Department in 2010 were found by the department to have violated department policy. Moreover, none of those deputies were criminally prosecuted for those shootings; even when witnesses have come forward and disputed the deputies’ claims as to what happened.

 

These homicides by police officer aren’t just limited to shootings. For example, on January 13, 2014, an Orange County, California, Superior Court jury acquitted two Fullerton Police Department officers of murdering / using unreasonable force on the mentally-ill son of a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff; Kelly Thomas. The beating death was audio and video recorded, and no reasonable human being could have believed that the beating death was justified.

The video recording shows two sadistic police officers, beat Kelly Thomas to death. However, the defense was able to show the jury two prior incidents that made the jury simply not care that Kelly Thomas was wrongfully beat to death; the testimony about his having previous struck his grandfather, and testimony about his mother obtaining a restraining order against him. Remember, this was a mentally ill young man, who had his moments. They were able to do this, because California Evidence Code Section 1103 permits a criminal defendants to show the character of the alleged victim of their crime, to prove that the victim has a certain character, and that the victim acted in conformity with that character during the incident complained of; the one that the criminal defendant is being prosecuted for.

 

In 2012, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain, Bob Olmsted, told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these rogue jailer gangs of sadistic sociopaths (Minnesota Viking logo tattoos on on their ankles.) Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, L.A. County sheriff’s official tells of jail brutality”, LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, L.A. County jail violence sheriff’s fault, panel says”, LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff’s Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the “3000 Boys” (the third floor jailers) and the “2000 Boys” (the second floor jailers) at a Sheriff’s Department Christmas party.


Even as long ago as 1992, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a published decision that the “Vikings” gang of Deputy Sheriff’s at the Lynwood Sheriff’s Station, that they were a Neo-Nazi white supremacist gang within the LA County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 978 F.2d 504 (1992.)

LA Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, ran for Sheriff of LA County. Paul Tanaka was a member of the Nazi Sheriff’s Department gang the “Vikings”; who have the Minnesota Vikings logo tattooed on their legs.

 

Following Captain Bob Olmsted’s revelations to the FBI, the FBI did an undercover investigation at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail. The FBI investigation resulted in the Indictment of 18 Deputy Sheriffs and their Supervisors for torturing inmates and obstructing the FBI’s investigation by hiding prisoners in the county jail population. These 18 Indictments of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel resulted in the very recent resignation of L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

 

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, along with a retired LASD Captain, recently were indicted by a federal Grand Jury for Obstructing and Conspiring to Obstruct a federal Grand Jury investigation of the rampant torturing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail (See, Paul Tanaka Indictment of May 13, 2015.)

That’s not the end of it. Former LASD Deputy Sheriff Noel Womack pleaded guilty in June of 2015 to federal charges of lying to the FBI about systemic LASD torturing and framing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jails. In 2014, six LASD Deputy Sheriffs were convicted of obstructing the FBI’s investigation of the torturing of prisoners at the Los Angeles County Jails.

Lee Baca resigned from office over the scandal at the LA County Men’s Central Jail involving the Indictment of 18 LASD Deputy Sheriffs and their Supervisors for torturing prisoners and obstructing the FBI’s investigation of the same. On February 10, 2016, Sheriff Baca was Indicted for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); lying to the FBI regarding his knowledge of a scheme in the Sheriff’s Department to intimidate an FBI agent who was investigating complaints of beatings of inmates by deputies at the Los Angeles County Jail, and to hide an FBI informant – jail inmate from his FBI handlers. Sheriff Baca was tried on that Indictment, but the jury hung.

 

Thereafter, on April 6, 2016, former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was convicted of conspiracy and actual obstruction of an FBI investigation; violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiring to obstruct justice) and 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a) (obstructing justice); for not only obstructing an FBI investigation into years of beatings and torturing of inmates at the L.A. County Jail, but also Tanaka and other high ranking Sheriff’s Department officials threatened one of the FBI agents involved in that investigation with arrest for continuing that investigation. In his trial, Tanaka admitted that he still had the Minnesota Vikings Logo tattoo on his leg; a tattoo that he described as a member in a club; the “Vikings”; a tatoo that the federal courts have held is the gang taoo for a “neo-Nazi white supremacists gang within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, 978 F.2d 504 (1992).

 

Thereafter, on February 10, 2017, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was convicted of similar charges; lying to the FBI and obstruction of the FBI investigation into the systemic beatings and torture of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail; violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); lying to the FBI regarding his knowledge of a scheme in the Sheriff’s Department to intimidate an FBI agent who was investigating complaints of beatings of inmates by deputies at the Los Angeles County Jail, and to hide an FBI informant – jail inmate from his FBI handlers.

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases“, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the police officer has beaten-up / tortured another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos. If you’re reading this article, the odds are, that either you or a loved one or friend has been beaten-up by the police and are being criminally prosecuted for allegedly battering the officer or somehow “resisting” the officer.

 

Orange County, California had a Sheriff’s Department that was run by creepy Sheriff Mike Carona, who was released from federal prison in 2015 for witness tampering (instructing witness to lie to Grand Jury.) Until Sheriff Carona went to prison, Orange County was a fantasy assignment for those truly sadistic peace officers, who “get-off” on beating inmates and arrestees.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in, and over, a community. That “power” base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Why Do Otherwise “Good Cops” Not Testify Truthfully About The Conduct Of Their Fellow Officers In Contempt Of Cop Cases?

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow police officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for police officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those persons whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn’t arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional “line in the sand“ (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn’t usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of “resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who’s engaged in the performance of his/her duties” is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

Often, Contempt of Cops arrests also often charge violation of Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b); “battery on a peace officer”. Battery on a peace officer, is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”, which the United States Supreme Court has classified since 1989, as an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)Moreover, if the police beat you up badly, they usually charge you with violation of Cal. Penal Code § 69; using or threatening the use of force to prevent or to attempt to prevent, a public officer from performing their duties. They use this section to charge you with for more serious injuries to you by them, because Section 69 is a “wobbler offense”; a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

 

Accordingly, in many cases where the police use “excessive force” (“police brutality”) on civilians, the excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241) and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) After all, how would it look if the police beat-up a civilian, and just left the scene, as opposed to arrested the person that they just beat-up? Not very good for the police; ergo, the old police motto: “You hook’em, you book’em.”

 

Pursuant to the routine procedure to persecute their victims, police officers arrest their victims, author bogus reports that accuse their victims of crimes against the officer, preserve evidence favorable to them, and “flush” evidence adverse to their usually fabricated and contrived claims of criminal conduct by their victims; you, the public. His law practice involves serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering is an expert in dealing with your pending bogus criminal action, in a way that is going to best protect your ability to down the road sue the police, and obtain compensation and redress for your beating, your false arrest, and your malicious criminal prosecution. Mr. Steering also specializes in obtaining evidence and framing issues for adjudication in the initial criminal action against the police misconduct victim (the defendant being criminally prosecuted), and discovering evidence in that criminal case, to seal the police defendants’ fate in the civil action after the criminal case is disposed of in your favor.

 

Legally, What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)

 

However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

“Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.

 

What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force Under Constitutional Scrutiny?

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force”as follows:

 

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.))

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See, Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); See also, Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment‘s objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed (See, Saucierv. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), Kennedy, J.)

 

The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:

 

“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions

9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NONDEADLY) FORCE

In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including:

1. The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;

2. Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to others;

3. Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;

4. The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;

5. The type and amount of force used;

[6. The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]

[7. Other factors particular to the case.]“

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT.

 

When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.” In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business.

If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.

 

THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct.at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id. (Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

 

Qualified Immunity Is A Self-Fulfilling Policy; The Court’s Don’t Provide Either Reasonably Discernible Guidelines, Or Clear Border Type Rulings

 

The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is reasonable or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (objectively reasonable officer) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention.

 

Yes It Is, No It Isn’t, Yes It Is; Sometimes; Those Crazy Taser Cases.

 

For example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases. In the first case, Bryan v. McPherson(9th Circuit 12/28/09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man.

Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.

Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir. March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

 

“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”

 

In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

 

“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”

 

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in todays police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b); which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”),and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: “What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

 

The Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering • 4063 Birch Street • Suite 100 • Newport Beach, CA 92660 map • © 1984-2017; Phone: (949) 474-1849 • Fax: (949) 474-1883 • Email: jerrysteering@yahoo.com • Web: www.SteeringLaw.com

Huntington Beach Police Misconduct Attorney

JERRY L. STEERING; POLICE MISCONDUCT ATTORNEY

Get Justice * Get Compensation

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Lawyer, serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering has been suing police officers, and defending bogus criminal cases (mostly bogus crimes against police officers), for 29 years. The majority of our firm’s law practice, is suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality /excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other Constitutional Torts” , including police whistleblowing cases (Cal. Labor Code Section 1102.5.)

 

Jerry L. Steering represents the victims of ”Police Misconduct”, such as the victim of the use of excessive force and false arrests of innocents. Mr. Steering’s law practice serves Huntington Beach and the Orange County cities shown below, as well as Ventura County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County. He has successfully handled many against Orange County law enforcement agencies, including cases against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and local police agencies, such as:

 

Gomez v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles) (2011) obtained $2,163,799.53 for unreasonable force on convicted jail inmate;

 

Torrance v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2010); obtained $380,000.00 for unreasonable force and false arrest;

 

Chamberlain v. County of Orange et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2009);obtained $600,000.00 for failure to protect pre-trial detainee in Orange County Jail;

 

Baima v. County of Orange, et al; U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2003); obtained $208,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force.

 

Celli v. County of Orange, et al; U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2009); obtained $200,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force.

 

 

Richard “Danny” Page v. City of Tustin , et al., U.S. District Court (Santa Ana) (1992); $450,000.00 for false arrest and unreasonable force.

 

Farahani v. City of Santa Ana; Mr. Steering obtained a $612,000.00 jury verdict against a Santa Ana Police Department officer for unreasonable force, for a single baton strike to a young man’s head. Farahani v. City of Santa Ana; United States District Court, Central District of California.

 

Sharp v. City of Garden Grove, Orange County Superior Court (2000) Mr. Steering obtained a $1,110,000.00 jury verdict against Garden Grove Police Department officers, along with a CHP officer and state parole agents, for the warrantless search of the body shop that was owned by the parolee’s father, and where the parolee worked when he wasn’t in prison. The parole department had denied GGPD Narcotics Bureau permission to do a “parole search” of the plaintiff father’s body shop, as they had no authority to do so. Parole agents can’t do (or authorize others to do) warrantless “parole searches” of places where parolees are employed. Imagine a parolee getting a job as a mechanic at Pep Boys. Could state parole agents and police officers do a parole search of Pep Boys? Of Course Not. State parole knew this, and they told GGPD Narcotics the same. However, GGPD Narcotics decided to use the pretext of a parole search, to do a full blown warrantless search of the Dad’s auto body shop, for a suspected meth lab, because the son / parolee’s parole officer wanted to violate the son’s parole for dirty drug tests, and was tired of waiting for GGPD to find him “cooking meth” at the Dad’s body shop GGPD had asked the Parole Agent not to violate the son / parolee’s parole, until they could catch him in the act of meth “cooking” at the Dad’s body shop; something that the mere appearance of in itself should be sufficient to dispel and such suspicion. The body shop was triangular, the hypotenuse of which, was wide open (no blinds or shades) to anyone standing on the sidewalk. The sidewalk side also had two wide entry bays, as did the rear side, the shop and doors were wide open all day, with all areas (save the lavatories) visible to any interested parties. The body shop also had an EPA approved vapor blower exhaust fan and roof portal, and any “dirty socks” odor from a meth lab, would have been blown all over the neighborhood. No reasonable officer would have really believed that the body shop was being used as a drug lab.

 

After several failed parole test drug tests by the son / parolee, his Parole Agent was getting more anxious to violate the son / parolee’s parole. So, the geniuses at the GGPD, the CHP and state parole (both members of OCATT; Orange County Auto-Theft task force.) They stormed into the body shop with SWAT / raid type gear, rifles and pistols blazing, ran-up from behind Mr. Sharp and pointed a shotgun at him. Then the cuffed-him (still at gunpoint) and made him get down onto the cement floor of his shop, with his hands cuffed behind him. One might imagine that this might result in knee injury to a 59 year old man, and one would be right. However, Mr. Sharp treated his own condition with health food supplements (Glucosamine Chondroitin). The constables then ransacked the body shop, with Mr. Sharp still cuffed, lying on the floor of his shop, with the neighboring businesses wondering why their business neighbor, who they always knew as a kind and generous man, was being treated like some despicable sub-human type, and in such a degrading and humiliating manner.

 

In addition to first claiming the officers warrantless invasion of the shop and the seizure of Mr. Sharp (something ultimately rejected by the court) the cops also claimed that the search was justified as a warrantless search for stolen vehicle parts pursuant to Cal. Veh. Code § 2805; a real stretch (body shops don’t call in VIN numbers on cars brought in for repair. They are also neither U.S. Customs, nor the police. They’re not buying the car; they’re just fixing it.)

 

The Orange County Superior Court jury awarded Mr. Sharp $1,010,000.00 (ten thousand dollars of which was for punitive damages against the most culpable parole agent.) They didn’t believe the police; probably because they lied through their teeth, and finally violated someone who was just like one of them; the Orange County jurors (i.e. white, businessman with a trade, married High School sweetheart, enlisted in United States Marines, no criminal record, wife blond and very nice.) The GGPD officer who lead the raid on the body shop is now a Captain at GGPD.

 

 

Oliver v. City of Anaheim, U.S. District Court, Santa Ana; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2012; (plaintiff won case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on their unlawful arrest claim; false arrest as matter of law.) Plaintiffs obtained $400,000.00 for four hour false arrest of father (and son), for father telling police that he didn’t know of his son hit a opossum with a shovel (which isn’t a crime anyway),so busted the father for violation of Cal. Penal Code 32 (i.e. “accessory to crime”, for not incriminating his son, for something that isn’t a crime. See, Oliver v. City of Anaheim; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

Mr. Steering has also had many acquittals in Orange County Superior Court; especially in cases involving false arrests.

 

EXCESSIVE FORCE, FALSE ARREST AND MALICIOUS PROSECUTION CASES

 

Mr. Steering has been suing police officers, and defending bogus criminal cases of crimes against police officers, since 1984. The majority of our firm’s law practice, is suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other Constitutional Torts, and defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of such abuse by the police; almost always for the same incident that the civilian – victim sues for.

 

WHAT IS “EXCESSIVE FORCE”?

 

The Politics Of The Judge Or Jurors Are The Major Determinate Factor In Excessive Force Cases

 

In the real world, in real Courts with real juries and real judges, a determination as to whether a peace officer used “Excessive Force” in a any given situation, is as much of a political question, as a factual one. It is the trier of fact’s (the jury’s) political persuasion, their life experiences with law enforcement, and their world view, that is most likely the determinate factor in any a police brutality / excessive force cases.

 

Civilians who are (almost always falsely) accused of battering a peace officer, very often get criminally prosecuted for not cooperating with the beating fast enough, so as to constitute a “resisting” or “obstructing” or “delaying” of a peace officer engaged in the performance of his/her official duties; Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1); the most abused Section in the California Penal Code, and the most ambiguous, amorphous, and abused law in California (See our Tab for “Contempt of Cop Cases”, above.) The Section 148(a)(1) charge is either a throw-in for a more serious assault and battery of a peace officer charge (95% of which are bogus), or the base criminal charge itself.

 

Because of the ambiguous / amorphous language of Section 148(a)(1), a white jury has free reign to criminalize failures of the attitude test, when they believe that they would have acted otherwise (even though if some cops walked-up to them on the street and ordered them to prone-out and spread ‘em, they would throw a fit. ) A different jury, however, one not so white and Republican (the cops can do no wrong), say one in Compton, California, are likely to have a different view of the world, a different view of the police and a totally different verdict in an excessive force case.

 

Excessive Force In The Real World; The Rodney King Case.

 

Rodney King may have been and may represent a lot of things to a lot of people, but he still was a haphazard petty criminal.Let’s no make no mistake about that. He is not a role model or a martyr. He was just some man who got beat-up by the LAPD on March 3, 1991, whose beating happened to by video recorded by an amateur photographer. However, back in 1991, if you did have a video camera, it was most likely one that uses a full-sized VHS tape, and was used by propping it on top of one’s shoulder while filming. Nowadays, every 12 year old has an iPhone and could record a much better image. There are a lot of people getting beaten-up today by the police, but still, none that had the international impact than Rodney King’s beating did.

 

Rodney King, a man who first evaded a traffic stop by LAPD for errant driving, and who eventually stopped his vehicle, got his a__ kicked by pursuing LAPD officers. Mr. King’s beating was captured on a video recording, that showed several LAPD officers clobbering Mr. King with their batons, and beating and kicking him; all of it being obviously just plain wrong and cruel.

 

The Rodney King Case; The Jurors In Simi Valley Find No Wrong By Police.

 

LAPD police officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno were criminally charged by Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti with using unreasonable force on a Rodney King, and other nasties. Mr. Garcetti was confident that his video recording of Rodney King’s beating showing outrageous force by the LAPD, that even the fine people of Simi Valley would see things his way, and that convictions of the LAPD officers was imminent.

 

However, the defendant officers obtained a change of venue, to the California Superior Court in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California. The media had already convicted the four cops who got criminally prosecuted for the March 3, 1991 beating, but the geniuses in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and those in the media forgot one thing; that even now, Simi Valley is only 1.26% African-American, and that most of them are probably cops or cop lovers (otherwise, they wouldn’t move there.) Convincing them that the Constables were the bad guys, and that the fleeing intoxicated motorist is the victim, is like trying to convince Billy Graham that there is no God. Sorry, you’re not going to do it.

 

On April 29, 1992 the jury in the Ventura County Superior Court (Simi Valley) criminal case, found that the defendant LAPD officers didn’t use “Excessive Force” upon Rodney King on March 3, 1991, and acquitted Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno of all charges. Los Angeles went crazy.

 

Some people reacted with disbelief to the jury verdicts; others reacted in anger. A crowd outside the Ventura County Courthouse shouted “Guilty! Guilty!” as the defendants were escorted away by sheriff’s deputies. According to Rodney King’s bodyguard, Tom Owens, King sat “absolutely motionless” as he watched in “pure disbelief” the televised verdicts being read. A visibly angry Mayor Tom Bradley publicly declared, “Today, the jury told the world that what we all saw with our own eyes was not a crime.”

 

Sixty-two minutes after the King verdict, five black male youths entered a Korean-owned Pay-less Liquor and Deli at Florence and Dalton Avenues. The youths each grabbed bottles of malt liquor and headed out the door, where they were blocked by the son of the store’s owner, David Lee. One young man smashed Lee on the head with a bottle, while two others shattered the storefront with their thrown bottles. One of the youths shouted, “This is for Rodney King!” The deadly Los Angeles riots of 1992 were underway.

 

Events grew increasingly ugly. Black youths with baseball bats battered a car driven by a white. Another white driver was hit in the face by a chunk of concrete thrown threw his car windshield. Police faced gangs of rock and bottle-throwing youths. The taunting, missile-hurling crowds grew in size, forcing the police to beat a hasty retreat out of the riot area. The Florence-Neighborhood is left to the anarchy of the mob attacking helpless civilians.

 

Perhaps the most horrific image of the riots involved mild-mannered truck driver Reginald Denny. Denny was at the wheel of his eighteen-wheeler, carrying a load of sand and listening to country music, when at 6:46 P.M. he entered the intersection at Normandy and Florence. A helicopter overhead captured on videotape what occurred next. Denny was pulled from his truck into the street, where he was kicked and then beaten on the head with a claw hammer. The most vicious attack came from Damian Williams who smashed a block of concrete on Denny’s head at point-blank range, knocking him unconscious and fracturing his head in ninety-one places. The helicopter camera recorded Williams doing a victory dance as he gleefully pointed out Denny’s bloodied figure.

 

The Governor called-out the National Guard, who even deployed in full Combat gear, even in the County Courthouses. When the rioting finally ended five days later, fifty-four people (mostly Koreans and Latinos) were dead–the greatest death toll in any American civil disturbance since the 1863 Draft Riots in New York City. Hundreds of people (including sixty firefighters) were injured. Looting and fires had resulted in more than one billion dollars in property damage. Whole neighborhoods in south central Los Angeles, such as Korea town, looked like war zones. Over 7,000 persons were arrested.

 

Even as the rioting continued, President George Bush and Attorney General William Barr began the process of bringing federal charges against the four LAPD officers accused in the King case. On the day after the Simi Valley verdict, Bush issued a statement declaring that the verdict “has left us all with a deep sense of personal frustration and anguish.” In a May 1, 1993 televised address to the nation, Bush all but promised a federal prosecution of the officers.

 

The Rodney King Case; Here Come The Feds.

 

Prosecuting the officers on the federal charge of violating King’s civil rights accomplished two Bush Administration goals. The first goal was to control the rage that had developed in black communities. The second was to reduce demands from some in the civil rights community for sweeping investigations into police misconduct.

 

On May 7, federal prosecutors began presenting evidence to a Los Angeles grand jury. On August 4, the grand jury returned indictments against the three officers for “willfully and intentionally using unreasonable force” and against Koon for “willfully permitting and failing to take action to stop the unlawful assault.” on King.

 

Unlike the Simi Valley jury, the federal jury was racially mixed. Although the defense made a considerable effort to exclude African-Americans, two blacks were seated as jurors. One of the two, Marian Escobel (“Juror No. 7), sent an early signal of the difficulty she would cause the defense when she was overheard strongly criticizing the defense’s treatment of other potential black jurors. In one of his most important trial rulings, Judge Davies denied a defense motion to remove Escobel from the jury–perhaps because he understood that the juror accurately perceived the defense conduct. A second problem for the defense resulted from their focus on excluding African-American jurors: they gave insufficient attention to identifying and excluding white jurors who were especially fearful of producing a verdict that would cause more rioting.

 

In addition to a more favorable jury, the prosecution had other advantages in the second trial. Clymer noted later that the government “had the advantage of seeing everything that had gone wrong in the first trial.” Clymer excluded from the witness list those witnesses who had backfired in Simi Valley. He avoided juror suspicion that the prosecution was hiding something by calling Rodney King to the stand. He came up with a medical expert who would prove King’s facial injury came from a baton blow, not the asphalt. He identified a credible use-of-force expert, Mark Conta, who countered the testimony of the defense’s expert. He used cross-examination to suggest that defense police witnesses were friends seeking to bail the defendants out of a tight spot. Finally, he presented new and potentially damaging facts to present to the jury, such as Powell taking King on a ninety-minute detour to Foothill Station after leaving Pacifica Hospital, rather than directly to the USC Medical Center, as Koon had requested. Clymer hoped that the jury might conclude the detour was made to show off their injured “trophy.”

 

King may have been an ex-con who had given wildly different accounts of his beating, but he came across on the stand as an uneducated man was either too drunk or confused to remember events, not as a sophisticated liar. Through King’s testimony, the jurors saw a man who seemed to have been in genuine fear of his life. He also raised the issue of race. Although he at first had denied that race had anything to do with his beating, he told the jury that as he was being hit, the officers “were chanting either ‘What’s up killer? How do you feel killer? [or] What’s up nigger?” Asked whether the word used was “killer” or “nigger,” King answered, “I’m not sure.” Watching King testify, defense attorney Stone worried. He saw King as “very polite and mild-mannered and thoughtful” and that, he said, “spells credibility.”

 

On April 10, 1993 two LAPD officers, Sgt. Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell, were convicted in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; violation of federal Constitutional rights under the color of law; felonies, for beating-up Rodney King. The Rodney King convictions would reshape the entire issue of the excessive use of force by the police in America. Unfortunately, White Republicans don’t see the world any differently.

 

LEGAL DEFINITIONS OF EXCESSIVE FORCE.

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force” as follows:

 

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.)

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); see also Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).”

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendments objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed.” (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), Kennedy, J.)

 

So, the Supreme Court (Justice Kennedy writing for the Majority) has essentially defined “excessive force” as basically force that is “unreasonable” in the abstract; that is, force that is greater than the amount of force that a reasonably well trained officer would have used under the same circumstances. Not so bad. Right? Not really. Here’s why.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S OBJECTIVE “REASONABLE OFFICER IN THE ABSTRACT STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE ANALYSIS FOR WHETHER YOU CAN ACTUALLY SUE THE OFFICER FOR EXCESSIVE FORCE ISN’T ALL THAT OBJECTIVE.

 

The problem with the description of how what excessive force is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is that this claim of objective reasonableness is bogus, for the subject belief of the subject officer is nonetheless considered in the excessive force analysis.

 

As shown above in the last sentence of the block quote from Saucier v. Katz:

 

“If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed.” (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)

 

How can the standard really be an objective one, if the subject officer’s mistaken yet reasonable belief is considered at all? How can one mistakenly but reasonably believe something? What Saucier really says, and what that case was all about, is whether a reasonably well trained officer in the abstract, could have reasonably believed, that a particular use of force is reasonable, when the same reasonably well trained officer in the abstract, would believe that the use of force was unreasonable? Huh? This is more Orwellian newspeak:

 

“The concern of the immunity inquiry is to acknowledge that reasonable mistakes can be made as to the legal constraints on particular police conduct. It is sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the officer confronts. An officer might correctly perceive all of the relevant facts but have a mistaken understanding as to whether a particular amount of force is legal in those circumstances. If the officer’s mistake as to what the law requires is reasonable, however, the officer is entitled to the immunity defense.” See, Saucier v. Katz; Majority Opinion by Justice Kennedy.

 

So, according to Justice Kennedy, although the reasonable force determination is one that is to be made in the abstract, when it comes to whether a particular police officer should be held liable for his Constitutional violations, objectivity goes out the window, and a reasonably mistaken belief by a particular defendant officer, is a sufficient defense to civil liability? So, one can reasonably act unreasonably. George Orwell would be proud of the Justice Kennedy’s fluency with newspeak.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S OBJECTIVE “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT

 

The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spraypersons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it.

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S OBJECTIVE “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – QUALIFIED IMMUNITY.

 

As shown in the last sentence of the quote from Saucier v. Katz, immediately above:

 

“If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed.” (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).) What does that mean?

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute such Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct. at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.” (Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

So, according to Justice Kennedy, although the reasonable force determination is one that is to be made in the abstract, when it comes to whether a particular police officer should be held liable for his Constitutional violations, objectivity goes out the window, and a reasonably mistaken belief by a particular defendant officer, is a sufficient defense to civil liability? So, one can reasonably act unreasonably.

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)) (which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”), and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal § Code 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled:What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

MOST FALSE ARRESTS ARE EFFORTS BY POLICE OFFICERS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITY, FOR OTHER WRONGFUL ACTS COMMITTED BY THEM

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in and over a community. That “power base”, is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers have a difficult and dangerous job, 2) that they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and that 5) police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move) and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn’t arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional “line in the sand(i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn’t usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code 148(a)(1), because the crime of “resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who’s engaged in the performance of his/her duties” is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; AMERICANS’ BELIEF SYSTEM ABOUT POLICE OFFICERS

 

Most Americans have a deeply held belief that police officers don’t beat-up civilians who don’t deserve it. People believe what they want to believe, and they don’t want to believe that the persons entrusted with their safety, routinely beat-up and “frame” innocents; often for fun, or to bolster their frail egos. However, in the real world, many police officers do just that. A substantial minority of peace officers actually do beat, torture and falsely arrest those that defy their authority, or somehow bruise their fragile egos. Thus, in the real world, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “excessive force” or “Unreasonable Force”, and the crime of resisting arrest (resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer; Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), is almost always the choice crime to arrest a civilian who committed no crime. The police can fairly easily obtain convictions of their victims for “resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer”, because almost any conduct by a civilian can be characterized as falling within the ambit of that statute; especially conduct that jurors find themselves believing is not the way that they would have handled that situation.

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; THE JURORS

 

To attack the jury system is to attack an institution that has been the primary barrier between oppression and freedom in the English speaking world since 1215. This is not an attack on the jury system. It is merely a reflection as to why in false arrest, unreasonable force and malicious prosecution cases, The way that a jury decides these type of cases is as much political, as it is an exercise in fact finding. The persons who ultimately get to sit on juries in these cases, have no real idea as to how police officers actually act, and have no idea how truly institutionally corrupt, police agencies really are when it comes to defending the County / City coffers and their and the politicians’ images.

 

In both civil and criminal cases, the parties have some say in the composition of the jury. The jury pool are supposedly called randomly, and the Court and the lawyers get to ask them questions. That part of a trial, questioning potential jurors, is called voir dire, that in French means, to speak the truth. Each side gets a certain numbers of peremptory challenges, that they can use to strike persons from sitting as jurors. In a federal court civil rights case, each side usually gets four peremptory challenges. So far, sounds fair. Here’s the rub.

 

Most people who have actually seen police officers beat-up a civilian have a lasting terrible feeling about police misconduct. Almost invariably, when they are asked by the lawyers or the Court about whether their prior experience with police misconduct will cause them to be prejudice against either side, they almost always say Yes. Most such people who have seen police beatings and the false prosecutions of their friends, are so deeply affected, that they invariably tell the Court that they are biased against police officers (in this type of case), and that they cant really put-aside that bias and be completely fair and impartial. Once they make that statement, any such jurors are then routinely excused for cause from sitting on that jury. Thus, the jurors who would more likely be favorable to the civil rights plaintiff (or criminal defendant accused of some crime against a peace officer), is excused for cause from sitting on the jury. The lawyer defending the case for the police doesn’t even had to use one of their jury peremptory challenges to get rid of that juror. All of the others jurors who do get to sit, are people who have never seen police misconduct; leaving a jury that, unfortunately, have no concept of the way that police, and police organizations, actually act.

 

Therefore, when Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen gets falsely arrested, beaten-up or maliciously prosecuted by police agencies, and gets criminally prosecuted for conduct that often isn’t criminal (i.e. “creative use” of the California criminal statute Penal Code Section 148(a)(1)), these “sanitized jurors” will generally not believe that the police really did what Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen claim that they did, unless Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen’s attorney can really prove otherwise; real proof; like a video, audio, or a bus load of highly observant nuns with photographic memories who testified about clearly indefensible police conduct. That’s why the jury system rigged against persons victimized by the police; because the only people who ever get to sit in judgment in these type of cases as jurors, are persons who have never had a bad experience with a police officer, or and who has not seen outrageous police conduct. Their life experience tells them something that’s just not true; that police officer don’t beat people up unless they did something to deserve it. You, therefore, need great proof to dispel that belief by jurors.

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, WE LIVE IN A POLICE STATE

 

If you think, as a practical matter, that you live in a free country, you’re wrong. We live in a police state; at least to a very appreciable degree. As a practical matter, the police can do whatever they want to you, and then procure the institution of a bogus criminal case against you. They typically author bogus police reports that claim that you committed some crime, like resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)) and/or battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), that results in a bogus criminal prosecution against you. They know that the District Attorney’s Office takes great pride in protecting the police from civil liability, by filing and prosecuting criminal action. They do this to beat you down; to make it so expensive for you to defend yourself on bogus criminal charges that carry little chance of actually being sentenced to jail, such as resisting arrest, that you end-up taking a plea bargain, that, in practical effect, bars your lawsuit by you for either false arrest, malicious prosecution, and, in most such cases, unreasonable force.

 

They also do this to protect themselves from internal discipline, and criminal liability for civil rights violations (18 U.S.C. § 242; violating a persons federal Constitutional rights under the color of state law.) The employing police agency will (almost) always deny that their officer engaged in wrongful conduct, especially in swearing contest type cases, where there is no video recording of the police beatings. Because the employing police agency will (almost) always back their officers by touting their (false) version of the story in order to avoid civil liability to the employing entity for the actions of their officers, it’s almost impossible to discipline them. For example, the City of Inglewood, California, fired Inglewood Police Department officer Jeremy Morse, for the video recording beating of a teenager at a gas station. When it came time for the civil suit against the City and the officers for the beating, the City contended that the officers acted properly. Accordingly, since the City took that position, fired officer Jeremy Morse sued the city, and won $21600,000.00 for his wrongful firing.

 

In 2010 the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shot to death 15 people, who they claimed were reaching for their waistband; notwithstanding that none of the shooting victims were armed. No one was prosecuted or disciplined. Who needs a hunting license? Join the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and you can shoot who ever you want to (unless the shooting is video recorded. If it is, the politicians may have to get rid of the officer.) The (recently forced-out) LASD Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, was a “Viking tattooed” member of the Vikings; a White supremacist Neo-Nazi organization with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, 978 F.2d 504 (9th Cir. 1992.)

 

Thus, at least as a practical matter, we live in a police state, because the police can, in the real world, do whatever they want to do to you, and almost always get away with it, so long as the activity is duty related, and could, if proven, expose the employing agency / entity to civil liability, political ridicule, or obloquy. True, the police have to justify their outrages, both internally (i.e. internal affairs investigations) and externally (bogus criminal prosecutions and defense of civil actions). But the system is rigged to permit them to do so; especially the jury system.

 

FALSE ARREST CASES – DON’T CALL THE COPS UNLESS YOU WANT SOMEONE AT LEAST IN JAIL, OR VERY POSSIBLY DEAD

 

All of use have broken some sort of law, but most of us don’t go around holding-up liquor stores. The odds are, that if you are inquiring about a police misconduct case, such as a false arrest case, that you fall into three basic categories of ways that the police came into contact with you, and then falsely arrested you, or worse.

 

I.      I Called The Police To Protect Me, So Why Was I The One Who Was Beaten-Up And Arrested?

 

A frequent type of case in which the police falsely arrest an innocent person, is when you, your spouse, your lover, or your parent or child, call the police. Many times family members feel that they cannot control mentally ill (or mad or drunk / drugged-up) people, including and especially their relatives, so they call “911″; often believing that the ambulance and paramedics are going to come to actually help them. They may not have even thought that the police would be the responding agency, but when they find out that the police are there, trouble may be awaiting. Once the cops are on the scene, they are taught to take charge, and anyone challenging, or even questioning, the police giving orders or their authority to do so, even seemingly unreasonable ones, is going to either get physically abused by the police, or falsely arrested by the police, or both.

 

Also, many spouses or lovers call the police on each other, to get the other person out of the house; even for a night or two. The police are not there to solve your family problems, so when you make that call, don’t make it unless you want your spouse or lover to go to jail, or worse. Cops are not counselors. They take people to jail. That’s what they do. So remember, when you call the police on your parent, child, lover or spouse, the person who ends-up getting thumped and arrested by the police just may be you. “No” you say? The police won’t arrest me if I’m the party calling the police. You’re wrong. They don’t care who called. All that the seem to care about, is how you respond to them; regardless of how unreasonable they act. If then, they thump you and beat you up, the odds are, that the police won’t even investigate the subject matter that you called about. Now, all of their attention is on you, since they violated you.

 

Also, do not use the police to get a border or a family member out of your house, unless the person is posing a “real” threat of imminent serious physical harm. If it’s that bad that you can’t stay in the house, then leave and get a hotel room, or just leave. The police cannot summarily evict / eject a civilian from a home in which they reside; whether they’re on the lease or not. In California, if a person resides at a home, only a Judge can force them to leave; either in the form of: 1) a Writ of Possession (the Court Order that the landlord gets in an “unlawful detainer” action, to give to the Sheriff’s Department, to eject you from your home, when you don’t pay your rent); 2) a Civil Harassment Restraining Order (under Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 527.6); 3) a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (under Cal. Family Code § 6320), and 4) an Emergency Protective Order in a criminal case (pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 136.2.)

 

II. Contempt Of Cop Cases - A Frequent Reason For False Arrests By Police Officers.

 

Contempt Of Cop” cases, are bogus criminal actions, brought against innocents by criminal prosecutors, for essentially, “bruised ego” violations. The “ego bruising”, is really nothing more than a civilian not immediately, and without protest or question, getting-down on the ground in a proned position, or not doing something that the officer wants you to do (lawful, reasonable or not) immediately, and without question or protest. The Constable‘s “ego” is typically “bruised”, by your conduct, such as: 1) asserting your Constitutional rights, or 2) claiming knowledge of them, or 3) asking the Constable why you’re being ordered to lie down on the ground while your chest is being illuminated by the red spot of a pistol or rifle targeting device; 4) telling the Constable that you have a medical condition that makes it difficult or painful to get on the ground; 5) telling the Constable that he can’t do something (i.e. can’t go in my house without a warrant; you can’t make me go inside or come outside); 6) failing to consent to an entry or a search; and 7) not exiting your house when ordered to do so (even though the police generally can’t order you to exit a private residence; save probable cause to arrest for serious dangerous felony, coupled with an emergency; See, United States v. Al-Azzawy, 784 F.2d 890 (9th Cir. 1985) and Elder v. Holloway, 510 U.S. 510 (1994.) These are but a few examples. The list is endless, but the theme is the same. Failing to immediately do whatever the police tell you to do, without protest, challenge or remarks, often will result in your being beaten-up, falsely arrested, and maliciously criminally prosecuted.

 

These, “Contempt Of Cop” cases, typical involve the police using force upon persons (i.e. beating them) and/or falsely arresting them, and then inventing bogus allegations of violations various “Contempt Of Cop” statutes, such as violations of: 1) Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer [commonly called "resisting arrest"]; the most abused statute in the Penal Code; 2) Cal. Penal Code § 240 /241(b) (assault on a peace officer); 3) Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b) (battery on a peace officer); and 4) Cal. Penal Code 69 (interfering with public officer via actual or threatened use of force or violence.) Cal. Penal Code § 69 is a “wobbler”; a California public offense that may be filed by the District Attorney’s Office as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County, allegations of violation of Penal Code § 69 are usually filed as misdemeanors. In San Bernardino County, however, allegations of violation of Cal. Penal Code § 69 are filed as felonies much more often than her sister counties. If they shoot you, they may even charge you with Cal. Penal § Code 245(d); assault on a peace officer in a manner likely to result in great bodily injury.

 

III.    Police Incompetence: A Frequent Reason For False Arrests By Police Officers.

 

Believe it or not, most experienced police officers have a pretty good functional understanding of very basic fourth amendment search and seizure issues. For example, police training about basic street contacts with civilians includes the following:

 

  • Detentions of persons outside of the home;
  • Arrests of persons outside of the home;
  • The use of force on persons outside of the home;
  • Probation searches
  • Parole searches
  • Search warrants
  • Warrantless searches of persons, vehicles and homes

 

Once you get past the basics, most police officers really don’t understand what the Constitution forbids them from doing. Police officers simply are not sufficiently trained to properly act within with long established Constitutional constraints on them. It takes years for lawyers and judges to understand fourth amendment search and seizure issues, and they disagree often about whether certain conduct is, or is not, constitutional.

 

Moreover, just like the rest of us, the cops make mistakes all of the time. They are human, and, therefore, false arrests by police officers are almost very often the product of either sheer incompetence (i.e. the police arrest another for conduct that isn’t criminal), or of the police officer attempting to justify his unlawful conduct, by arresting and then framing their victim (i.e. false police reports, perjurous court testimony, false convictions) of his federal criminal (18 U.S.C. § 242), and otherwise tortious misconduct (i.e. if the police use unreasonable / unlawful force on a civilian, the use of force is almost always followed by a false arrest.)

 

FALSE ARREST CASES; CALIFORNIA LAW

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – ELEMENTS AND PROOF – CALIFORNIA LAW

 

A “false arrest” is the sametortas a “false imprisonment” under California law. Unlike federal law, under California law, the burden is on the police to justify their “seizure” (false arrest / false imprisonment) of you at a civil trial (See, California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 1401 [False Arrest by Peace Officer Without Warrant] and 1402 [Peace Officer's Justification / Defense To Claim Of False Arrest].) Under California law, a peace officer (i.e. police officer or deputy sheriff) may arrest another for a felony for which the officer has “probable cause” to believe person committed, or may arrest another for a misdemeanor that was committed in their presence (See, Cal. Penal Code § 836.) “Presence is not mere physical proximity but is determined by whether the offense is apparent to the officers senses. People v. Sjosten, 262 Cal.App.2d 539, 543544 (1968″.) An officer can arrest a civilian, upon probable cause, for any felony; committed in the presence of an officer or not. Cal. Penal Code § 836. However, it does not violate the fourth amendment, for an officer to arrest for a misdemeanor that was committed outside of the presence of the officer.

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – NO “QUASI-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY” – CALIFORNIA LAW

 

Cal. Penal Code 847(b) provides:

“There shall be no civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, any peace officer . . . acting within the scope of his or her authority, for false arrest or false imprisonment arising out of any arrest under any of the following circumstances:

(1) The arrest was lawful, or the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.”

 

Although police civil defendants have argued that Section 847(b)(1) immunizes peace officers for false arrests like the “qualified immunity” provided for police false arrest civil defendants federal court, that code section cannot be reasonably construed that way. The first part of Section 47(b)(1) (“The arrest was lawful”), logically changes nothing, for if the arrest was lawful, then there is no liability under anyone’s theory; kind an unintended legal redundancy. The second part of Section 47(b)(1) (“the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful”), could only reasonably be meant to apply to a situation, where an officer arrested a civilian based upon either: 1) an arrest warrant that did issue, but for which there was no probable cause to have issued (the officer who obtained the arrest warrant on insufficient grounds committed the fourth amendment violation, and is liable for the false arrest, unless otherwise protected, such as by “qualified immunity“), or 2) when the officer had “reasonable cause, which is essentially a term equivalent to “probable cause” under the jury instructions that are used at the trial of this particular tort (See, CACI 1402; . . . arrest lawful if . . . “reasonable cause to believe that the plaintiff committed a crime is the standard for whether a peace officer’s arrest of a civilian was lawful.) Therefore, logically, Section 47(b)(1) provides no immunity for California peace officers for a false arrest. That does not mean, however, that a state or federal judge won’t disagree with that proposition. It is not fully developed under either California law, or by the federal district court’s interpretation of that statute.

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – FEDERAL LAW – GENERALLY

 

A “false arrest” under federal law, is considered a violation of a person’s right to be free from an “unreasonable seizure” of their person under the Fourth Amendment (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction for Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.) The United States Supreme Court has defined a “seizure of a person” as when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave the presence of police officers and to go about their business. See, United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980.)

 

In 1871, Congress enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983), that gives any person whose federal Constitutional rights have been violated, a right to sue, any person who violated those rights under the color of state law, in a United States District Court. Section 1983 lawsuits can also be brought in a state court of general jurisdiction; See, 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Accordingly, a person who is falsely arrested by a peace officer (i.e. police officer, deputy sheriff, or some other officer who derives peace officer powers from state law), may sue the police officer under Section 1983, as well as under California state law.

 

In federal court, in a civil Fourth Amendment “arrest without probable cause” case (a federal false arrest case), the jury is instructed at the end of the case, on the following definition of “probable cause”:

 

“Probable cause exists when, under all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] at the time, an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a fair probability that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime” (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20, Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.)

 

Therefore, that standard, whether “an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a “fair probability” that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime”, is the standard that the propriety of an arrest, outside of the home is judged by, in federal court in the states comprising the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20). It doesn’t matter what the thousands of other cases, from the Supreme Court on down, say about what “probable cause” means. All that matters, is what a civil jury is going to be told is the standard that they should judge the facts by, in their deliberations (a civil jury is the “Judge of the facts” ["trier of fact"], and the District Judge is the “Judge of the law”.)

 

Some justices say that the words “probable cause, are found in the text of the fourth amendment itself, and that is the standard for a seizure of a person by the government that was established by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1791; not reasonable suspicion:

“MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.

I agree that petitioner was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. I also agree that frisking petitioner and his companions for guns was a “search.” But it is a mystery how that “search” and that “seizure” can be constitutional by Fourth Amendment standards unless there was “probable cause” [n1] to believe that (1) a crime had been committed or (2) a crime was in the process of being committed or (3) a crime was about to be committed.

The opinion of the Court disclaims the existence of “probable cause.” If loitering were in issue and that [p36] was the offense charged, there would be “probable cause” shown. But the crime here is carrying concealed weapons; [n2] and there is no basis for concluding that the officer had “probable cause” for believing that that crime was being committed. Had a warrant been sought, a magistrate would, therefore, have been unauthorized to issue one, for he can act only if there is a showing of “probable cause.” We hold today that the police have greater authority to make a “seizure” and conduct a “search” than a judge has to authorize such action. We have said precisely the opposite over and over again. [n3] [p37]

In other words, police officers up to today have been permitted to effect arrests or searches without warrants only when the facts within their personal knowledge would satisfy the constitutional standard of probable cause. At the time of their “seizure” without a warrant, they must possess facts concerning the person arrested that would have satisfied a magistrate that “probable cause” was indeed present. The term “probable cause” rings a bell of certainty that is not sounded by phrases such as “reasonable suspicion.” Moreover, the meaning of “probable cause” is deeply imbedded in our constitutional history. As we stated in Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100-102:

The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history. The general warrant, in which the name of the person to be arrested was left blank, and the writs of assistance, against which James Otis inveighed, both perpetuated the oppressive practice of allowing the police to arrest and search on suspicion. Police control took the place of judicial control, since no showing of “probable cause” before a magistrate was required.

That philosophy [rebelling against these practices] later was reflected in the Fourth Amendment. And as the early American decisions both before and immediately after its adoption show, common rumor or report, suspicion, or even “strong reason to suspect” was not adequate to support a warrant [p38] for arrest. And that principle has survived to this day. . . .

. . . It is important, we think, that this requirement [of probable cause] be strictly enforced, for the standard set by the Constitution protects both the officer and the citizen. If the officer acts with probable cause, he is protected even though it turns out that the citizen is innocent. . . . And while a search without a warrant is, within limits, permissible if incident to a lawful arrest, if an arrest without a warrant is to support an incidental search, it must be made with probable cause. . . . This immunity of officers cannot fairly be enlarged without jeopardizing the privacy or security of the citizen.

The infringement on personal liberty of any “seizure” of a person can only be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment if we require the police to possess “probable cause” before they seize him. Only that line draws a meaningful distinction between an officer’s mere inkling and the presence of facts within the officer’s personal knowledge which would convince a reasonable man that the person seized has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a particular crime.

In dealing with probable cause, . . . as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175.

To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment. [p39] Until the Fourth Amendment, which is closely allied with the Fifth, [n4] is rewritten, the person and the effects of the individual are beyond the reach of all government agencies until there are reasonable grounds to believe (probable cause) that a criminal venture has been launched or is about to be launched.

There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today.

Yet if the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) Douglas,J. Dissenting.

 

Moreover, it does not matter what the arresting officer’s state of mind was, even if he was mistaken as to the crime committed, so long as in retrospect, a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that there was a “fair probability” that you committed a crime.

 

The Closely Related Offense Doctrine; A Reasonable But Now Extinct Approach To Whether Civil Liability Attaches To An Arrest.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used to employ a doctrine entitled the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Under that doctrine, if an officer arrested a civilian for one particular crime, but the police officer didn’t have probable cause to have arrested the person was for that crime, if a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed to have arrested the person for some other crime that was “closely related” to the crime that the person was arrested for, then the arrest is valid under the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Bingham v City of Manhattan Beach, 341 F.3d 939 (9th Cir. 2003.) However, the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine” was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146 (2004.)

 

“Our cases make clear that an arresting officers state of mind (except for the facts that he knows) is irrelevant to the existence of probable cause. . . . That is to say, his subjective reason for making the arrest need not be the criminal offense as to which the known facts provide probable cause. As we have repeatedly explained, the fact that the officer does not have the state of mind which is hypothecated by the reasons which provide the legal justification for the officer’s action does not invalidate the action taken as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action. . .. [T]he Fourth Amendments concern with reasonableness allows certain actions to be taken in certain circumstances, whatever the subjective intent.” See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 15253 (2004.)

 

Accordingly, the arresting police officers belief about what crime a person committed is irrelevant. All that matters is whether a reasonably well trained officer would have entertained a belief that the person arrested committed a crime; that is, the “reasonably well trained officer” in the abstract. If that fictional “reasonably well trained police officer” would not have believed that a crime had been committed, the arrested person may be able to obtain compensation for his/her false arrest.

 

Many times an officer mistakenly believes that certain conduct is a crime, but it’s not (See, Tab above forPolice Misconduct News, and the Section therein entitled “Possum Impossible”; the Lorenzo Oliver case; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that, as matter of law, no crime committed.) Other times, an officer arrests a person for a crime that he has no warrant or probable cause for, but, under the facts as the officer knew them, there was nonetheless a crime committed, that would have been apparent to the officer is he was familiar with that particular criminal statute. So long as a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed from the facts known to the arresting officer, the arrest is generally lawful. See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 152-53 (2004.)

 

Atwater Legalizes Otherwise False Arrests.

 

If a police officer arrests you for any violation of law, even a parking ticket or a seat-belt violation, actually taking you to jail and booking you does not violate the Fourth Amendment; at least since 2001. See, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) (arrest for violation of Texas seat-belt statute that carries a maximum $50.00 fine and no jail, not violative of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures”.) See also, however, stinging Dissent by Justice O’Connor in Atwater:

 

“Such unbounded discretion [to arrest for even the most trivial offense] carries with it grave potential for abuse. The majority takes comfort in the lack of evidence of an epidemic of unnecessary minor-offense arrests. Ante, at 33, and n. 25. But the relatively small number of published cases dealing with such arrests proves little and should provide little solace. Indeed, as the recent debate over racial profiling demonstrates all too clearly, a relatively minor traffic infraction may often serve as an excuse for stopping and harassing an individual. After today, the arsenal available to any officer extends to a full arrest and the searches permissible concomitant to that arrest. An officers subjective motivations for making a traffic stop are not relevant considerations in determining the reasonableness of the stop. See, Whren v. United States, supra, at 813. But it is precisely because these motivations are beyond our purview that we must vigilantly ensure that officers post stop actions which are properly within our reach comport with the Fourth Amendments guarantee of reasonableness . . . . The Court neglects the Fourth Amendments express command in the name of administrative ease. In so doing, it cloaks the pointless indignity that Gail Atwater suffered with the mantle of reasonableness. I respectfully dissent.” Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) O’Connor, J., Dissenting.

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – FEDERAL LAW – QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

 

Under the Qualified Immunity Doctrine, so long as a reasonably well trained officer could have believed that a person’s conduct constituted a crime, the officer who actually violated the Constitutional rights of another is nonetheless immune from being liable for damages caused by the officer’s Constitutional violation:

 

“The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). If the alleged conduct did not violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id. A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id. at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009). Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.” Hopkins v. Bonvicino, 573 F.3d 752 (9th Cir. 2009.)

 

These days, qualified immunity for false arrests are so common, that they almost make false arrest cases impossible to win.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

 

Someone has to stand-up to the bullies of society, who think that using state police power to humiliate others, is funny, and makes them big men (or women.) There are thousands of others like you, who are good people, and have been somehow, for some reason that you could not have ever imagined, victimized by the government. It might as well be you. Stand-up for justice. Stand-up for our form of self-government. Stand-up for the spilled-blood of our fathers, who bravery died to prevent the very thing, that the government is doing to you right now.

 

Click on “Home”, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation. Also, if you have been the victim of a False Arrest or Excessive Force by a police officer, check our Section, above, entitled: What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

Police Misconduct Case Results

 

Here is a sampling of some of the police brutality, false arrest and malicious prosecution cases handled by Mr. Steering:

  • Markwell v. City of Huntington Beach, Orange County Superior Court, $40,000.00 settlement for excessive force (1987);
  • Goodwin v. City of Stanton, U.S. District Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (1988), $100,000.00 settlement for false arrest;
  • Hands v. City of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California, Superior Court (1989), $137,500.00 settlement, for false arrest and excessive force;
  • Voss v. City of Laguna Beach, Orange County Superior Court (1989), $35,000.00 award for false arrest;
  • Farahani v. City of Santa Ana, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana) (1990), $612,000.00 jury verdict for excessive force, for baton strike to head;
  • Kieswetter v. City of Laguna Beach, Orange County Superior Court (1991), $75,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force;
  • Guillen v. City of Santa Ana, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (1992)(L.A.), $75,000.00 settlement following acquittal of criminal charges of resisting and assaulting peace officer;
  • In Re Richard P., U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(1992), $450,000.00 settlement for false arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force, following jury verdict of acquittal in state court criminal action for resisting peace officer and assault and battery on peace officer;
  • Lobsinger v. City of Stanton, Orange County Superior Court (1993), $50,000.00 arbitration award for excessive force;
  • Burks v. County of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court (1993), $30,000.00 settlement for false arrest;
  • Garcia v. City of Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, Superior Court (1994), $140,000.00 settlement following plaintiff’s jury verdict for 8 minute false arrest;
  • Garcia v. City of Santa Ana, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(1994), $25,000.00 settlement for false arrest;
  • Bautista v. City of Huntington Beach, U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of Cal. (Santa Ana) (1994), $42,500.00 settlement for unlawful detention during warrant execution;
  • Tualaulelei v. City of Compton, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (L.A.) (1995), $6,000,000.00 structured settlement for wrongful death police shooting in Compton, California;
  • Morgan v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside), (1996), $714,000.00 settlement following jury verdict for excessive force and false arrest during search warrant execution in Victorville, California;
  • August v. City of Huntington Beach, et al., Orange County, California, Superior Court (1997),$80,000.00 settlement with bail agents for unlawful entry into home and unlawful detention;
  • Gallard v. City of Los Angeles, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (L.A.) (1998), $82,000.00 settlement for wrongful eviction by LAPD officers;
  • Oschmann v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(1998), $30,000.00 settlement for unlawful seizure of person;
  • Lopez v. County of Orange, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(1999), $50,000.00 settlement for false arrest and excessive force;
  • Ansari v. City of Laguna Beach, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(1999), $30,000.00 settlement for unlawful gunpoint detention;
  • Darr v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2000), $50,000.00 settlement for violation of first amendment right to freedom of association;
  • Sharp v. City of Garden Grove, Orange County, California, Superior Court, (2000), $1,010,000.00 jury verdict, 45 minute detention of father of parolee;
  • Corugedo v. City of Los Angeles, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (L.A.)(2000), $100,000.00 settlement for unlawful entry into home and seizure of minor;
  • Gardner v. AMR, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (L.A.) (2001), $650,000.00 settlement of wrongful death, for failure to provide ambulance;
  • Austin v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, $500,000.00 jury verdict for false arrest and excessive force;
  • Keaty v. City of Huntington Beach, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (L.A.) (2002), $70,000.00 settlement for harassment by police officer);
  • Lopez v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2002), $50,000.00 settlement for racially motivated battery;
  • Morales v. City of Bell Gardens, U.S. District Court Cent. Dist. Cal. (L.A.)(2003), $120,000.00 settlement for excessive force and false arrest;
  • Miller v. City of San Bernardino, et al., U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2003), $35,000.00 settlement for unlawful detention;
  • Calderon v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2003), $115,000.00 settlement for false arrest and illegal search;
  • Johnson v. County of Orange, U.S. Dist. Court (Santa Ana) (2003), $95,000.00 settlement for false arrest;
  • Baima v. County of Orange, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(2004), $208,000.00 settlement for false arrest and excessive force;
  • Alvarez v. City of L.A., U.S. Dist. Court Central District of California (2004), $850,000.00 settlement for false arrest, malicious prosecution and withholding exculpatory evidence;
  • Arroyo v. City of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2004), $125,000.00 settlement for unreasonable seizure of person;
  • Jane Doe v. City of Irvine, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of Cal. (Santa Ana)(2005), $400,000.00 settlement for sexual battery by police officer;
  • Mansfield v. City of Costa Mesa, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana)(2006), $225,000.00 settlement for unreasonable shooting of family pit bull and for unlawful seizure of person;
  • King v. City of Huntington Beach, et al., U.S. District Court Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2006), $38,500.00 settlement for wrongful shooting of pit bull;
  • Risk v. Cathedral City, U.S. District Court Central District of Cal. (Riverside)(2006), $125,000.00 settlement for false arrest / excessive force;
  • Howden v. City of Anaheim, et al, U.S. District Court Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2007), $90,000.00 settlement for false arrest and false personnel claim against police officer;
  • In re Jamie J., U.S. District Court Central District of Cal. (Riverside)(2007), $75,000.00 settlement for false arrest / excessive force;
  • Ford v. County of San Bernardino, (2007), $80,000.00 settlement for excessive force;
  • In re Jane Doe v. County of San Bernardino, et al., (2008), $290,000.00 settlement (prior to filing lawsuit) for sexually motivated mistreatment of arrestee;
  • Chamberlain v. County of Orange, et al. (2008), $600,000.00 settlement for wrongful death / interference with parent – child relationship / failure to protect inmate in County Jail facility;
  • Rexford Newman v. County of Orange, U.S. District Court – Santa Ana (2008), $49,999.00 for unreasonable force and false arrest;
  • Munoz v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. District Court Central District of California (Santa Ana) (2008), $40,000.00 settlement (following plaintiff’s jury verdict) for battery of inmate at Orange County Jail;
  • Garcia v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court – Riverside (2008), $95,000.00 settlement for failure to protect inmate at Glen Helen Jail;
  • Diaz v. County of San Bernardino, et al. , United States District Court – Riverside (2008), $49,999.00 settlement for excessive force;
  • Vera v. County of Riverside, et al., United States District Court – Riverside (2009) $199,000.00 settlement (part structured) for unreasonable force / infliction of emotional distress;
  • Grasso v. County of San Bernardino, et al. (2009), $180,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force / infliction of emotional distress;
  • Santos v. City of Garden Grove, et al., United States District Court, Central District of Cal. (Santa Ana) (2009), $475,000.00 settlement for false arrest, malicious prosecution and unreasonable force;
  • Turner v. County of Orange, U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of Cal. (Santa Ana)(2009), $200,000.00 settlement for false arrest and unreasonable force;
  • Torres v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside)(2010), $500,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force;
  • Cortez v. City of Anaheim, Orange County Superior Court (2010), $300,000.00 settlement for placing private citizen bystander in position of danger, and negligent infliction of emotional distress;
  • Torrance v. County of Orange et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2010), $380,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force and false arrest;
  • Gomez v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles) (2011), $2,163,799.53, settlement (part structure) for unreasonable force [wrongful death] of convicted jail inmate;
  • Chynoweth v. County of Riverside et al.,Riverside County Superior Court (2011), $750,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force;
  • Moore, et al. v. City of Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County Superior Court (2012), $825,000.00 (trial settlement) for excessive force and false arrest;
  • Aubry v. County of San Bernardino, et al, U.S. Dist. Court (LA) 2012, $325,000.00 settlement for the use of unreasonable force and for false arrest;
  • Lorenzo Oliver v. City of Anaheim, U.S. District Court (Santa Ana) 2012; $400,000.00 settlement following win on liability in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (See Police Misconduct News; or click above on “Police Misconduct News”) for false arrest (“Possum Impossible”; CBS News; Neil Chayet “Looking at the Law”);
  • Parnell v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court (L.A.) 2013; $250,000.00 at trial for unreasonable force and unlawful search; and
  • Trent v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2013; $600,000.00 settlement for unreasonable force and unlawful seizure of person;
  • Butano v. County of Orange; U.S. District Court (L.A.) 2014; $727,500.00 final settlement for false arrest and unreasonable force;
  • Holley v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2014; $500,000.00 settlement for false arrest and unreasonable force;
  • Fox v. County of Orange; U.S. District Court (Santa Ana) 2015;$150,000.00 settlement for false arrest and unreasonable force;
  • In Re R.W.; U.S. District Court (Santa Ana) 2015; $465,000.00 settlement for failure to provide medical treatment.
  • Slater v. County of Riverside; U.S. District Court (L.A.); $40,000.00 for unreasonable force on jail inmate.
  • Montano v. USA; U.S. District Court (L.A.) 2015; $500,000.00 for wrongful death of dialysis patient
  • Thomas v. City of Gardena; U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2015; $292,495.00 jury verdict plus attorney’s fees and costs for false arrest
  • Licitra v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2016; $300,000.00 settlement for false arrest / unreasonable force
  • In re Emmanuel W.; U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2016; $200,000.00 settlement for false arrest / unreasonable force
  • Jones v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2016; $300,000.00 settlement for unreasonable seizure of person;
  • Jimenez v. County of San Diego, U.S. District Court (San Diego) 2016; $500,000.00  settlement for excessive force.
  • In re J.M.J.; U.S. District Court (Los Angeles) 2016; $225,000.00 settlement for first amendment retaliation (whistle blowing);
  • A.E. v. City of Blythe, U.S. District Court (Riverside) 2016; $75,000.00 settlement for unreasonable seizure of person;
  • Jones v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court (Los Angeles) 2016; $170,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force; 
  • In re D.D.; U.S. District Court (Los Angeles) 2017; $300,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force.

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure Claims

Fourth Amendment Protections; The Right To Be Left Alone

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

 

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects American’s personal privacy, and every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property — whether through police detentions of citizens on the street, arrests, or police searches of cars, homes and businesses. Lawmakers and the courts have put in place legal safeguards to ensure that law enforcement officers interfere with individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights only under limited circumstances, and through specific methods. However, lately, those longstanding Fourth Amendment protections are, one by one, being cast aside in the name of “officer safety.”

 

What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect? Fourth Amendment “search and seizure” protections extend to: 1) A law enforcement officer’s physical apprehension or “seizure” of a person, by way of a stop, detention or arrest; and 2) police searches of persons, places and items in which an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy, such as his/her person, clothing, purse, luggage, vehicle, house, apartment, hotel room, and place of business, to name a few examples.

 

The Fourth Amendment provides safeguards to individuals during searches and detentions, and prevents unlawfully seized items from being used as evidence in criminal cases. The degree of protection available in a particular case depends on the nature of the detention or arrest, the characteristics of the place searched, and the circumstances under which the search takes place. When Does the Fourth Amendment Apply? The legal standards derived from the Fourth Amendment provide constitutional protection to individuals in the following situations, among others: An individual is stopped for police questioning while walking down the street. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)(first Supreme Court case to permit the seizure [i.e. detention and pat-down for weapons] of an individual without either a warrant, or probable cause to believe that the seized person has or is engaged in criminal conduct.) The sole dissenter in Terry, Justice William O. Douglas, saw Terry for what it was; the crest of the ever so slippery slope, that would eventually lead to the evaporation of our right to be free from governmental intrusions and suspicionless seizures:

 

“The infringement on personal liberty of any “seizure” of a person can only be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment if we require the police to possess “probable cause” before they seize him. Only that line draws a meaningful distinction between an officer’s mere inkling and the presence of facts within the officer’s personal knowledge which would convince a reasonable man that the person seized has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a particular crime.

In dealing with probable cause, . . . as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.

Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175.

To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment. [p39] Until the Fourth Amendment, which is closely allied with the Fifth, [n4] is rewritten, the person and the effects of the individual are beyond the reach of all government agencies until there are reasonable grounds to believe (probable cause) that a criminal venture has been launched or is about to be launched.

There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today.

Yet if the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.”

 

What Justice Douglas was saying, is that the Constitution always established “probable cause” as the minimum standard for a governmental seizure of a person or their property, and by allowing police officers to detention and frisk persons on less than probable cause, endows a police officer with powers of search and seizure that even a Judge couldn’t authorize. A judge cannot issue an order (i.e. warrant) to detain someone for questioning and/or to frisk them. A judge can only order the arrest (as opposed to a “detention”) of a person, and the seizure of a person’s property, based on a showing of “probable cause.”

 

Examples of other Fourth Amendment violations are: 1) A man is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, and the police officer searches the vehicle’s trunk, without probable cause to believe that the trunk will contain evidence of criminal conduct. Although permitted for 28 years under New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981), in 2009, the Supreme Court abandoned Belton, and held that the police may not search the vehicle of one whom they have just arrested, unless they have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence that is germane to the crime that the motorist was arrested for. See, Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. ___ (2009.) 2) Police officers enter an individual’s house to place him or her under arrest, and have plenty probable cause to believe that he committed a crime, but no arrest warrant. Is the arrest lawful? Not under Payton v. New York, 445  U.S.  573  (1980), that holds that in the absence of a warrant, consent or an emergency, that a police officer may not cross the threshold of a free citizen’s doorway to arrest him, even if the officer has probable cause to arrest.  Police officers enter an individual’s apartment to search for evidence of crime.Police officers enter a corporation’s place of business to search for evidence of crime.Police officers confiscate an individual’s vehicle or personal property and place it under police control.Potential scenarios implicating the Fourth Amendment, and law enforcement’s legal obligation to protect Fourth Amendment rights in those scenarios, are too numerous to cover here. However, in most instances a police officer may not search or seize an individual or his or her property unless the officer has:A valid search warrant;A valid arrest warrant; or A belief rising to the level of “probable cause” that an individual has committed a crime.What if My Fourth Amendment Rights Are Violated? When law enforcement officers violate an individual’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and a search or seizure is deemed unlawful, any evidence derived from that search or seizure will almost certainly be kept out of any criminal case against the person whose rights were violated. For example: An arrest is found to violate the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by probable cause or a valid warrant. Any evidence obtained through that unlawful arrest, such as a confession, will be kept out of the case.A police search of a home is conducted in violation of the homeowner’s Fourth Amendment rights, because no search warrant was issued and no special circumstances justified the search. Any evidence obtained as a result of that search cannot be used against the homeowner in a criminal case. – See more at: http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-rights/search-and-seizure-and-the-fourth-amendment.html#sthash.46I7TpW6.dpuf

Temecula Police Brutality Attorney

JERRY L. STEERING; POLICE MISCONDUCT ATTORNEY

DON’T PLEAD GUILTY WHEN YOU’RE NOT

GET JUSTICE * GET COMPENSATION

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney, who deals with false arrests cases daily. His law practice involves serving, among other places, the cities of Murietta and Temecula, and the Riverside County cities shown below. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is especially creepy in the Southwest Judicial District, that includes Riverside cities from Lake Elsinore to Temecula, and the rest of South County. They routinely violate the constitutional rights of the locals and visitors alike, and usually get the “prosecutorial support” of an equally creepy District Attorney’s Office, that is more than happy to “persecute” those violated by the Sheriff’s Department; not because they believe that the civilian committed a crime, but only to protect the reputation, and potential civil liability of the Deputy Sheriffs committing the Constitutional violations.

 

The Internal Affairs Bureau of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is also a Division of that agency, devoted to protecting the Department and its deputies for liability for torts and crimes perpetrated against civilians. You’re not going to find misconduct if you’re not looking for it, and the last things that the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is interesting in finding, is justification (contrived or otherwise) for its officers’ actions.

 

 

Mr. Steering also represents persons in both civil and criminal cases in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Orange County and San Bernardino County. He is an expert in brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases; both civil and criminal. Jerry L. Steering has successfully sued the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department over the years. Most recently, Mr. Steering has obtained settlements against the County of Riverside for wrongfully tasing and falsely arresting a former Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff [Torres v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside)(2010), $500,000.00], and for using unreasonable force and falsely arresting a 64 year old man [Chynoweth v. County of Riverside et al., Riverside County Superior Court (2011), $750,000.00] (a false arrest at the Temecula Rod Run of 2011; Sgt. Southern is now off of the streets and is working in dispatch / communications.)

 

Mr. Steering also obtained an $825,000.00 settlement at completion of trial from the Riverside County City of Desert Hot Springs, for unreasonable force and false arrest [Moore, et al. v. City of Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County Superior Court (2012) (Sgt. Anthony Sclafani, now a guest of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was the main defendant.)

 

 

Mr. Steering's law practice involves representing persons in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County. He is also a member of the State Bar of Georgia, and had also litigated cases in Georgia, Alabama and the District of Columbia. He is an expert in police brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases, and has been litigating these cases since 1984.The great majority of Mr. Steering's law practice is defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of abuse by the police, and suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other "Constitutional Torts."

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff's Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a "Blue Code of Silence" between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff's Department's own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men's Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.

 

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Captain recently told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men's Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, "L.A. County sheriff's official tells of jail brutality", LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, "L.A. County jail violence sheriff's fault, panel says", LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff's Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the "3000 Boys" (the third floor jailers) and the "2000 Boys" (the second floor jailers) at a Sheriff's Department Christmas party. Even as long ago as 1992, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a published decision that the "Vikings" gang of Deputy Sheriff's at the Lynwood Sheriff's Station, that they were a Neo-Nazi white supremacist gang within the LA County Sheriff's Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 978 F.2d 504 (1992.)

 

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are "false arrests" in the most malevolent sense of the word, "Contempt of Cop cases", the only reason that there's an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated (i.e. beaten-up / torture) another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their "power" in, and over, a community. That "power" base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public "supporting the police". That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they're basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister "false arrests", are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, "Contempt Of Cop"; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. "ratting out fellow officer not a good career move") and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today's police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally "frame") of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn't arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional "line in the sand" (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn't usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of "resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who's engaged in the performance of his/her duties" is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

Pursuant to the routine procedure to persecute their victims, police officers arrest their victims, author bogus reports that accuse their victims of crimes against the officer, preserve evidence favorable to them, and “flush” evidence adverse to their usually fabricated and contrived claims of criminal conduct by their victims; you, the public. His law practice involves serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering is an expert in dealing with your pending bogus criminal action, in a way that is going to best protect your ability to down the road sue the police, and obtain compensation and redress for your beating, your false arrest, and your malicious criminal prosecution. Mr. Steering also specializes in obtaining evidence and framing issues for adjudication in the initial criminal action against the police misconduct victim (the defendant being criminally prosecuted), and discovering evidence in that criminal case, to seal the police defendants’ fate in the civil action after the criminal case is disposed of in your favor.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow police officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for police officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those persons whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated. For example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”, which the United States Supreme Court has classified since 1989, as an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).) Accordingly, in many cases where the police use “excessive force” (“police brutality”) on civilians, the excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241) and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) After all, how would it look if the police beat-up a civilian, and just left the scene, as opposed to arrested the person that they just beat-up? Not very good for the police; ergo, the old police motto: “You hook’em, you book’em.”

 

Legally, What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)

 

However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

 

“Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.

 

What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force”as follows:

The suspect struck my fist with his face

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.))

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

 

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See, Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); See also, Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment‘s objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)

 

The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:

 

“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions

9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NON-DEADLY) FORCE

In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including:

1. The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;

2. Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to others;

3. Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;

4. The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;

5. The type and amount of force used;

[6. The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]

[7. Other factors particular to the case.]“

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT.

 

When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: “He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”.

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct.at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.”(Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

Qualified Immunity Is A Self-Fulfilling Policy; The Court’s Don’t Provide Either Reasonably Discernible Guidelines, Or Clear Border Type Rulings

 

The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is reasonable or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (objectively reasonable officer) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention. See, for example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases. In the first case, Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man. Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir.March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”

 

In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”

 

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)(which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”),and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

 

Murrieta Police Brutality Attorney

JERRY L. STEERING; POLICE MISCONDUCT ATTORNEY

DON’T PLEAD GUILTY WHEN YOU’RE NOT

GET JUSTICE * GET COMPENSATION

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney, who deals with false arrests cases daily. His law practice involves serving, among other places, the cities of Murietta and Temecula, and the Riverside County cities shown below. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is especially creepy in the Southwest Judicial District, that includes Riverside cities from Lake Elsinore to Temecula, and the rest of South County. They routinely violate the constitutional rights of the locals and visitors alike, and usually get the “prosecutorial support” of an equally creepy District Attorney’s Office, that is more than happy to “persecute” those violated by the Sheriff’s Department; not because they believe that the civilian committed a crime, but only to protect the reputation, and potential civil liability of the Deputy Sheriffs committing the Constitutional violations.

 

The Internal Affairs Bureau of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is also a Division of that agency, devoted to protecting the Department and its deputies for liability for torts and crimes perpetrated against civilians. You’re not going to find misconduct if you’re not looking for it, and the last things that the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is interesting in finding, is justification (contrived or otherwise) for its officers’ actions.

 

 

Mr. Steering also represents persons in both civil and criminal cases in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Orange County and San Bernardino County. He is an expert in brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases; both civil and criminal. Jerry L. Steering has successfully sued the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department over the years. Most recently, Mr. Steering has obtained settlements against the County of Riverside for wrongfully tasing and falsely arresting a former Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff [Torres v. County of Riverside, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Riverside)(2010), $500,000.00], and for using unreasonable force and falsely arresting a 64 year old man [Chynoweth v. County of Riverside et al., Riverside County Superior Court (2011), $750,000.00] (a false arrest at the Temecula Rod Run of 2011; Sgt. Southern is now off of the streets and is working in dispatch / communications.)

 

Mr. Steering also obtained an $825,000.00 settlement at completion of trial from the Riverside County City of Desert Hot Springs, for unreasonable force and false arrest [Moore, et al. v. City of Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County Superior Court (2012) (Sgt. Anthony Sclafani, now a guest of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was the main defendant.)

 

 

Mr. Steering's law practice involves representing persons in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County. He is also a member of the State Bar of Georgia, and had also litigated cases in Georgia, Alabama and the District of Columbia. He is an expert in police brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases, and has been litigating these cases since 1984.The great majority of Mr. Steering's law practice is defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of abuse by the police, and suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other "Constitutional Torts."

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff's Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a "Blue Code of Silence" between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff's Department's own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men's Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.

 

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Captain recently told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men's Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, "L.A. County sheriff's official tells of jail brutality", LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, "L.A. County jail violence sheriff's fault, panel says", LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff's Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the "3000 Boys" (the third floor jailers) and the "2000 Boys" (the second floor jailers) at a Sheriff's Department Christmas party. Even as long ago as 1992, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a published decision that the "Vikings" gang of Deputy Sheriff's at the Lynwood Sheriff's Station, that they were a Neo-Nazi white supremacist gang within the LA County Sheriff's Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 978 F.2d 504 (1992.)

 

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are "false arrests" in the most malevolent sense of the word, "Contempt of Cop cases", the only reason that there's an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated (i.e. beaten-up / torture) another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their "power" in, and over, a community. That "power" base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public "supporting the police". That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they're basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister "false arrests", are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, "Contempt Of Cop"; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. "ratting out fellow officer not a good career move") and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today's police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally "frame") of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn't arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional "line in the sand" (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn't usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of "resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who's engaged in the performance of his/her duties" is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

Pursuant to the routine procedure to persecute their victims, police officers arrest their victims, author bogus reports that accuse their victims of crimes against the officer, preserve evidence favorable to them, and “flush” evidence adverse to their usually fabricated and contrived claims of criminal conduct by their victims; you, the public. His law practice involves serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering is an expert in dealing with your pending bogus criminal action, in a way that is going to best protect your ability to down the road sue the police, and obtain compensation and redress for your beating, your false arrest, and your malicious criminal prosecution. Mr. Steering also specializes in obtaining evidence and framing issues for adjudication in the initial criminal action against the police misconduct victim (the defendant being criminally prosecuted), and discovering evidence in that criminal case, to seal the police defendants’ fate in the civil action after the criminal case is disposed of in your favor.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow police officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for police officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those persons whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated. For example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”, which the United States Supreme Court has classified since 1989, as an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).) Accordingly, in many cases where the police use “excessive force” (“police brutality”) on civilians, the excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241) and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) After all, how would it look if the police beat-up a civilian, and just left the scene, as opposed to arrested the person that they just beat-up? Not very good for the police; ergo, the old police motto: “You hook’em, you book’em.”

 

Legally, What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)

 

However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

 

“Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.

 

What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force”as follows:

The suspect struck my fist with his face

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.))

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

 

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See, Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); See also, Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment‘s objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)

 

The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:

 

“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions

9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NON-DEADLY) FORCE

In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including:

1. The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;

2. Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to others;

3. Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;

4. The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;

5. The type and amount of force used;

[6. The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]

[7. Other factors particular to the case.]“

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT.

 

When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: “He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”.

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct.at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.”(Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

Qualified Immunity Is A Self-Fulfilling Policy; The Court’s Don’t Provide Either Reasonably Discernible Guidelines, Or Clear Border Type Rulings

 

The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is reasonable or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (objectively reasonable officer) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention. See, for example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases. In the first case, Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man. Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir.March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”

 

In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”

 

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)(which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”),and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

 

Santa Ana Excessive Force Attorney

Get Justice * Get Compensation

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney, serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below, including in the City of Santa Ana, California. As far back as 1990, Mr. Steering won a $612,000.00 jury verdict against a sole Santa Ana Police Department police officer for unreasonable force; Farahani v. City of Santa Ana, U.S. District Court (Santa Ana)(See, “Police Brutality False Arrest Case Results” pages for verdicts / settlements / judgments against other police agencies.) Mr. Steering has been suing police officers, and defending bogus criminal cases of crimes against police officers, for over 28 years.

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a both civil and criminal lawyer. “Civil”, meaning suing police officers and their employing agencies for various Constitutional and state law claims. “Criminal”, in the sense that almost always following the police abusing (i.e. beating-up, tasing, pepper-spraying, etc.) a civilian, they routinely procure, or a attempt to procure, the filing of at least a misdemeanor Count of violation of Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his/her duties. Section 148(a)(1) is otherwise known in police circles as Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test), is in itself, vague, ambiguous and unintelligible. It is used every day to oppress those who voice their dissatisfaction with the police.

 

Mr. Steering’s law practice involves representing persons in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County. He is also a member of the State Bar of Georgia, and had also litigated cases in Georgia, Alabama and the District of Columbia. He is an expert in police brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases, and has been litigating these cases since 1984.The great majority of Mr. Steering’s law practice is defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of abuse by the police, and suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other Constitutional Torts.”

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff’s Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a “Blue Code of Silence” between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.

 

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain recently told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, “L.A. County sheriff’s official tells of jail brutality”, LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, “L.A. County jail violence sheriff’s fault, panel says”, LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff’s Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the “3000 Boys” (the third floor jailers) and the “2000 Boys” (the second floor jailers) at a Sheriff’s Department Christmas party. Even as long ago as 1992, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a published decision that the “Vikings” gang of Deputy Sheriff’s at the Lynwood Sheriff’s Station, that they were a Neo-Nazi white supremacist gang within the LA County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 978 F.2d 504 (1992.)

 

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases”, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated (i.e. beaten-up / torture) another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in, and over, a community. That “power” base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move”) and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn’t arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional line in the sand (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn’t usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of “resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who’s engaged in the performance of his/her duties” is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

Pursuant to the routine procedure to persecute their victims, police officers arrest their victims, author bogus reports that accuse their victims of crimes against the officer, preserve evidence favorable to them, and “flush” evidence adverse to their usually fabricated and contrived claims of criminal conduct by their victims; you, the public. His law practice involves serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering is an expert in dealing with your pending bogus criminal action, in a way that is going to best protect your ability to down the road sue the police, and obtain compensation and redress for your beating, your false arrest, and your malicious criminal prosecution. Mr. Steering also specializes in obtaining evidence and framing issues for adjudication in the initial criminal action against the police misconduct victim (the defendant being criminally prosecuted), and discovering evidence in that criminal case, to seal the police defendants’ fate in the civil action after the criminal case is disposed of in your favor.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow police officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for police officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those persons whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated. For example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”, which the United States Supreme Court has classified since 1989, as an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).) Accordingly, in many cases where the police use “excessive force” (“police brutality”) on civilians, the excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241) and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) After all, how would it look if the police beat-up a civilian, and just left the scene, as opposed to arrested the person that they just beat-up? Not very good for the police; ergo, the old police motto: “You hook’em, you book’em.”

 

Legally, What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)

 

However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

 

“Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.

 

What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force”as follows:

The suspect struck my fist with his face

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.))

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

 

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See, Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); See also, Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment‘s objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)

 

The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:

 

“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions

9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NON-DEADLY) FORCE

In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including:

1. The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;

2. Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to others;

3. Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;

4. The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;

5. The type and amount of force used;

[6. The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]

[7. Other factors particular to the case.]“

 

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT.

 

When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: “He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”.

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct.at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.”(Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

Qualified Immunity Is A Self-Fulfilling Policy; The Court’s Don’t Provide Either Reasonably Discernible Guidelines, Or Clear Border Type Rulings

 

The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is reasonable or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (objectively reasonable officer) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention. See, for example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases. In the first case, Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man. Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir.March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”

 

In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”

 

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)(which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”),and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

 

Santa Ana Police Brutality Attorney

The Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

Get Justice * Get Compensated

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney; both civil and criminal. “Civil”, meaning suing police officers and their employing agencies for various Constitutional and state law claims. “Criminal”, in the sense that almost always following the police abusing (i.e. beating-up, tasing, pepper-spraying, etc.) a civilian, they routinely procure, or a attempt to procure, the filing of at least a misdemeanor Count of violation of Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his/her duties. Section 148(a)(1) is otherwise known in police circles as “Contempt Of Cop”; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test), is in itself, vague, ambiguous and unintelligible. It is used every day to oppress those who voice their dissatisfaction with the police.

 

Mr. Steering’s law practice involves representing persons in Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County. He is also a member of the State Bar of Georgia, and had also litigated cases in Georgia, Alabama and the District of Columbia. He is an expert in police brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases, and has been litigating these cases since 1984.The great majority of Mr. Steering’s law practice is defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of abuse by the police, and suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other “Constitutional Torts.”

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff’s Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a Blue Code of Silence” between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.

 

A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain recently told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, “L.A. County sheriff’s official tells of jail brutality”, LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, “L.A. County jail violence sheriff’s fault, panel says”, LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff’s Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the “3000 Boys” (the third floor jailers) and the “2000 Boys” (the second floor jailers) at a Sheriff’s Department Christmas party. Even as long ago as 1992, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held in a published decision that the “Vikings” gang of Deputy Sheriff’s at the Lynwood Sheriff’s Station, that they were a Neo-Nazi white supremacist gang within the LA County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al., 978 F.2d 504 (1992.)

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases”, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated (i.e. beaten-up / torture) another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in, and over, a community. That “power” base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move”) and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn’t arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional line in the sand (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn’t usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of “resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who’s engaged in the performance of his/her duties” is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

Pursuant to the routine procedure to persecute their victims, police officers arrest their victims, author bogus reports that accuse their victims of crimes against the officer, preserve evidence favorable to them, and “flush” evidence adverse to their usually fabricated and contrived claims of criminal conduct by their victims; you, the public. His law practice involves serving, among other places, Orange County, and the Orange County cities shown below. Mr. Steering is an expert in dealing with your pending bogus criminal action, in a way that is going to best protect your ability to down the road sue the police, and obtain compensation and redress for your beating, your false arrest, and your malicious criminal prosecution. Mr. Steering also specializes in obtaining evidence and framing issues for adjudication in the initial criminal action against the police misconduct victim (the defendant being criminally prosecuted), and discovering evidence in that criminal case, to seal the police defendants’ fate in the civil action after the criminal case is disposed of in your favor.

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow police officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for police officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those persons whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated. For example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”, which the United States Supreme Court has classified since 1989, as an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).) Accordingly, in many cases where the police use “excessive force” (“police brutality”) on civilians, the excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241) and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) After all, how would it look if the police beat-up a civilian, and just left the scene, as opposed to arrested the person that they just beat-up? Not very good for the police; ergo, the old police motto: “You hook’em, you book’em.”

 

Legally, What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)

 

However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

 

“Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.

 

What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?

 

The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force”as follows:

The suspect struck my fist with his face

“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.))

“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

 

As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See, Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); See also, Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).

In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment‘s objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed (See, Saucierv. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)

The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:

 

“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions

9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NONDEADLY) FORCE

In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].

Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including:

1. The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;

2. Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to others;

3. Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;

4. The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;

5. The type and amount of force used;

[6. The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]

[7. Other factors particular to the case.]“

THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT.

 

When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: “He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM

 

In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.

 

The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”

 

So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:

 

“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct.at 815.

An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.

The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.

A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.

When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)

However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.”(Saucier v. Katz, supra.)

Qualified Immunity Is A Self-Fulfilling Policy; The Court’s Don’t Provide Either Reasonably Discernible Guidelines, Or Clear Border Type Rulings

 

The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is reasonable or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (objectively reasonable officer) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.

 

This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention. See, for example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases. In the first case, Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man. Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir.March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”

 

In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:

“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”

 

WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in todays police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)(which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”),and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.

 

So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)

 

If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: “What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.

 

Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.

 

Irvine False Arrest Attorney

LAW OFFICES OF JERRY L. STEERING

Get Justice * Get Compensation

Jerry L. Steering is a Police Misconduct Attorney who sues police officers and deputy sheriffs, for, among other things, false arrests, excessive force and malicious criminal prosecutions. The following is basic information on false arrests by peace officers, why so many innocents, especially those arrested for “Contempt of Cop” crimes, are falsely arrested, and what you can and can’t do about your false arrest.

 

The Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering, has been a litigating false arrest cases in Irvine since 1986. Mr. Steering also represented the victim of a sex assault by an Irvine Police Department officer, and obtained $400,000.00 from the City of Irvine for redress.

 

In the 1980′s through the end of the millenia, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Irvine comprised the only Orange County cities that had their criminal cases held and litigated in Harbor-Orange County Superior Court. Now, with the closure of South-Orange County Superior Court, all cases in Orange County from Newport Beach – Costa Mesa on south are tried and litigated in Harbor-Orange County Superior Court; right down the street from Mr. Steering’s Law Office.

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

MOST FALSE ARRESTS ARE EFFORTS BY POLICE OFFICERS. ALONG WITH THEIR GUARDIANS AT THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM CIVIL, CRIMINAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITY, FOR WRONGFUL ACTS COMMITTED BY THEM.

 

Police Misconduct is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. There is a Blue Code of Silence” between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012. A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain recenlty told the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, “L.A. County sheriff’s official tells of jail brutality”, LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, “L.A. County jail violence sheriff’s fault, panel says”, LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff’s Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the “3000 Boys” (the third floor jailers) and the “2000 Boys” (the second floor jailers)at a Sheriff’s Department Christmas party. Even as long ago as 1992, the federal court have held that one of these Sheriff’s Department “gangs”, “The Vikings”, was (and is) a White supremacist Neo-Nazi organization with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, 978 F.2d 504 (9th Cir. 1992.)

 

Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases”, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated (i.e. beaten-up / torture) another; usually to self-medicate rather frail and easily bruiseable egos.

 

Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in, and over, a community. That “power” base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.

 

Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, Contempt Of Cop; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.)

 

Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move) and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest civilians, and to author false police reports, to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame”) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated by them. After all; how would it look if a police officer beat you up, and didn’t arrest you. Because most police officers, including those that step-over Constitutional “line in the sand” (i.e. beating another, falsely accusing civilians of crimes), are not true sociopaths, when they falsely charge you with a crime, it isn’t usually too serious of one. Most are bogus claims for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), because the crime of “resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer who’s engaged in the performance of his/her duties” is incredibly ambiguous, and can (ingenuously or ignorantly) be applied to almost any conduct by a person (i.e. the defendant yelled at me for restraining [torturing] the “suspect”, so he delayed me from arresting the “suspect” because I had to look his way and take a protective stance in the events that the defendant charged at me.)

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; AMERICANS’ BELIEF SYSTEM ABOUT POLICE OFFICERS.

 

Most Americans have a deeply held belief that police officers don’t beat-up civilians who don’t deserve it. People believe what they want to believe, and they don’t want to believe that the persons entrusted with their safety, routinely beat-up and “frame” innocents; often for fun, or to bolster their frail egos, or to protect their fellow officers. However, in the real world, many police officers do just that. A substantial minority of peace officers actually do beat, torture and falsely arrest those that defy their authority, or somehow bruise their fragile egos. Almost all American police officers will cover for their fellow officers (i.e. writing bogus crime reports and conspiring to write the same, testifying that an innocent committed a crime that he/she didn’t.) Thus, in the real world, the crime of “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “excessive force” or “Unreasonable Force”, and the crime of resisting arrest (resisting or obstructing or delaying a peace officer; Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), is almost always the choice crime to arrest a civilian who committed no crime. The police can fairly easily obtain convictions of their victims for “resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer”, because almost any conduct by a civilian can be characterized as falling within the ambit of that statute; especially conduct that jurors find themselves believing is not the way that they would have handled that situation. Moreover, because the statute is so vague, Deputy District Attorney’s routinely file these type of cases, simply to protect the police. In many of these bogus criminal prosecutions for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), the Deputy District Attorney will argue pure nonsense as to why you committed a crime, such as: a) by making the officer deal with you (i.e. asking him why he wants you to do something), you delayed his investigation of you, b) by not immediately complying with his orders, you delayed his investigation of others, c) by asking him a question, you interfered with the officers investigation, d) by not getting on the ground fast enough (i.e. immediately, without question or protest) you caused him to have to beat you up, which delayed his investigation, and e) other assorted nonsense. 

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; THE JURORS

 

To attack the jury system is to attack an institution that has been the primary barrier between oppression and freedom in the English speaking world since 1215 (King John signing the Magna Carta.) This is not an attack on the jury system. It is merely a reflection as to why in false arrest, unreasonable force and malicious prosecution cases, the way that a jury decides these type of cases is as much political, as it is an exercise in fact finding. The persons who ultimately get to sit on juries in these cases, have no real idea as to how police officers actually act, and have no idea how truly institutionally corrupt, police agencies really are when it comes to defending the County / City coffers and their and the politicians’ images. Many of them have an emotional predisposition to believe the police; no matter how many obvious falsehoods they may utter. They consider themselves “Pro-Police”, any often feel that the cops are getting a raw deal in the media, and need their support. With these kind of white / upper-middle class types, if a cop testifies under oath with a straight face, that’s it. You’re goose is cooked. Guilty. You’ve really got to prove that you’re innocent in these type of cases. Try convincing a Newport Beach Superior Court white affluent jury that you didn’t act rudely toward a peace officer, or somehow delay or obstructed the officer’s investigation of you, by exercising your right to not speak with the officer. The harmony of all of this, is that since Section148(a)(1) of the Penal Code (resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties) doesn’t actually mean anything, and is so vague and amorphous, that a jury can make it fit their enmity for the accused; enmity created by the mere fact that you stand accused at all.

 

In both civil and criminal cases, the parties have some say in the composition of the jury. The jury pool are supposedly called randomly, and the Court and the lawyers get to ask them questions. That part of a trial, questioning potential jurors, is called voir dire, that in French means, to speak the truth. Each side gets a certain numbers of peremptory challenges, that they can use to strike persons from sitting as jurors. In a federal court civil rights case, each side usually gets four peremptory challenges. So far, sounds fair. Here’s the rub.

 

Most people who have actually seen police officers beat-up a civilian have a lasting terrible feeling about police misconduct. Almost invariably, when they are asked by the lawyers or the Court about whether their prior experience with police misconduct will cause them to be prejudice against either side, they almost always say “Yes.” Most such people who have seen police beatings and the false prosecutions of their friends, are so deeply affected, that they invariably tell the Court that they are biased against police officers (in this type of case), and that they cant really put-aside that bias and be completely fair and impartial. This is understandable. It’s like asking a juror who witnessed the raping of her friend, at gun point, by members of a particular motorcycle club, would feel biased against the defendant, who happens to be accused of rape, and of being a member of a gang; the same gang / Motorcycle club, that she watched raping her friend. Of course, the person is going to have a bias against the defendant.

 

Once the prospective juror makes that statement, any such jurors are then routinely excused for cause from sitting on that jury. Thus, the jurors who would more likely be favorable to the civil rights plaintiff (or criminal defendant accused of some crime against a peace officer), is excused for cause from sitting on the jury. The lawyer defending the case for the police doesn’t even had to use one of their jury peremptory challenges to get rid of that juror. All of the others jurors who do get to sit, are people who have never seen police misconduct; leaving a jury that, unfortunately, have no concept of the way that police, and police organizations, actually act.

 

Therefore, when Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen gets falsely arrested, beaten-up or maliciously prosecuted by police agencies, and gets criminally prosecuted for conduct that often isn’t criminal (i.e. “creative use” of the California criminal statute Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), these “sanitized jurors” will generally not believe that the police really did what Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen claim that they did, unless Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Citizen’s attorney can really prove otherwise; real proof; like a video, audio, or a bus load of highly observant nuns with photographic memories who testified about clearly indefensible police conduct. That’s why the jury system rigged against persons victimized by the police; because the only people who ever get to sit in judgment in these type of cases as jurors, are persons who have never had a bad experience with a police officer, or and who has not seen outrageous police conduct. Their life experience tells them something that’s just not true; that police officer don’t beat people up unless they did something to deserve it. You, therefore, need great proof to dispel that belief by jurors.

 

WHY THE COPS CAN GET USUALLY GET AWAY WITH IT; THE JUDGES

 

All Article III federal Judges are appointed for life. It means, that unless a federal judge is impeached by the House of Representatives and removed by the Senate, they sit for life. The idea of lifetime appointment of Judges by the Founding Fathers of the United States is based on the notion that Judges aren’t supposed to be political weather vanes; that is, they’re not supposed to changes direction with the prevailing political winds. This is a good thing. A person should not be deprived of their Constitutional Rights because respecting their rights would be unpopular. However, there are drawbacks to this.

 

The problem with lifetime appointment of Article III federal judges, is that if you get a bad one appointed, we’re stuck with him for life. That is a bad thing. The problem with a “bad judge” is that one side or another, won’t get a fair trial. A trial based on the law; not on the Judges political leanings. Unfortunately, unfair trials, especially unfair in the Court’s rulings against civil rights plaintiffs, are far too common. Take the case of the late United States District Judge Andrew Hauk. Judge Hauk was so against civil rights plaintiffs, especially police brutality plaintiffs, that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that could not longer preside over police misconduct cases because he wouldn’t give anyone suing the police a fair trial.

 

As United States District Judge J. Spencer Letts once said, Judges can make a case come out anyway they want to; they just don’t. Well, Judge Letts was right about the first part, but not the second. Ask any experience trial lawyer, and they will tell you that your case has a much better chance of success if a particular Judge presides, and a much worse chance if another particular Judge presides. Why is this? Why would the Judge make a difference? Aren’t the Federal Rules of Evidence supposed be understandable and applied uniformly? We’ll, yes, the Federal Rules of Evidence are understandable, but as persons with undefendable positions often say, “Don’t bring facts into this argument.”

 

Unfortunately, the Judges appointed by Democrats are, on par, much more sympathetic to civil rights / police misconduct plaintiffs, than those appointed by the Republicans. That is a simple fact. It is not an endorsement of the Democratic Party Platform, or any particular Democrat. There, of course, are many fine Republican Senators. However, over all, just go through the federal judicial roster, and you will find that the Judges (state and federal) appointed by the Democrats are much better for civil rights / police misconduct plaintiffs, than those appointed by the Republicans. This is a fact of life.

 

If you’re a Republican and are offended by this, we’re sorry. We don’t mean to offend anyone. We just speak the truth, and anyone involved in the system knows this. The fine Senators on the Senate Judicially Committee have actually resorted to filibustering a federal judicial nominee.

 

Judges are not mere referees. They do call balls and strikes at trial (i.e. objections and whether to overrule or sustain the same), but they also define the strike zone, and the appellate Judges (i.e. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court) re-write the rules of the game, all of the time. So, if you have a civil rights / police misconduct case, your chances of success often depend on what Judge you have. That why the cops get away with it; Conservative Judges.

 

FALSE ARREST CASES – DON’T CALL THE COPS UNLESS YOU WANT SOMEONE AT LEAST IN JAIL, OR VERY POSSIBLY DEAD

 

All of use have broken some sort of law, but most of us don’t go around holding-up liquor stores. The odds are, that if you are inquiring about a police misconduct case, such as a false arrest case, that you fall into three basic categories of ways that the police came into contact with you, and then falsely arrested you, or worse.

 

I. I Called The Police To Protect Me, So Why Was I The One Who Was Beaten-Up And Arrested?

 

A frequent type of case in which the police falsely arrest an innocent person, is when you, your spouse, your lover, or your parent or child, call the police. Many times family members feel that they cannot control mentally ill (or mad or drunk / drugged-up) people, including and especially their relatives, so they call “911″; often believing that the ambulance and paramedics are going to come to actually help them. They may not have even thought that the police would be the responding agency, but when they find out that the police are there, trouble may be awaiting. Once the cops are on the scene, they are taught to take charge, and anyone challenging, or even questioning, the police giving orders or their authority to do so, even seemingly unreasonable ones, is going to either get physically abused by the police, or falsely arrested by the police, or both.

 

Also, many spouses or lovers call the police on each other, to get the other person out of the house; even for a night or two. The police are not there to solve your family problems, so when you make that call, don’t make it unless you want your spouse or lover to go to jail, or worse. Cops are not counselors. They take people to jail. That’s what they do. So remember, when you call the police on your parent, child, lover or spouse, the person who ends-up getting thumped and arrested by the police just may be you. “No” you say? The police won’t arrest me if I’m the party calling the police. You’re wrong. They don’t care who called. All that the seem to care about, is how you respond to them; regardless of how unreasonable they act. If then, they thump you and beat you up, the odds are, that the police won’t even investigate the subject matter that you called about. Now, all of their attention is on you, since they violated you.

 

Also, do not use the police to get a border or a family member out of your house, unless the person is posing a “real” threat of imminent serious physical harm. If it’s that bad that you can’t stay in the house, then leave and get a hotel room, or just leave. The police cannot summarily evict / eject a civilian from a home in which they reside; whether they’re on the lease or not. In California, if a person resides at a home, only a Judge can force them to leave; either in the form of: 1) a Writ of Possession (the Court Order that the landlord gets in an “unlawful detainer” action, to give to the Sheriff’s Department, to eject you from your home, when you don’t pay your rent); 2) a Civil Harassment Restraining Order (under Cal. § Civ. Proc. Code 527.6); 3) a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (under Cal. Family Code § 6320), and 4) an Emergency Protective Order in a criminal case (pursuant to Cal. § Penal Code 136.2.)

 

II. Contempt Of Cop Cases- A Frequent Reason For False Arrests By Police Officers.

 

Contempt Of Cop”cases, are bogus criminal actions, brought against innocents by criminal prosecutors, for essentially, “bruised ego” violations. The “ego bruising”, is really nothing more than a civilian not immediately, and without protest or question, getting-down on the ground in a proned position, or not doing something that the officer wants you to do (lawful, reasonable or not) immediately, and without question or protest. The Constable‘s “ego” is typically “bruised”, by your conduct, such as: 1) asserting your Constitutional rights, or 2) claiming knowledge of them, or 3) asking the Constable why you’re being ordered to lie down on the ground while your chest is being illuminated by the red spot of a pistol or rifle targeting device; 4) telling the Constable that you have a medical condition that makes it difficult or painful to get on the ground; 5) telling the Constable that he can’t do something (i.e. can’t go in my house without a warrant; you can’t make me go inside or come outside); 6) failing to consent to an entry or a search; and 7) not exiting your house when ordered to do so (even though the police generally can’t order you to exit a private residence; save probable cause to arrest for serious dangerous felony, coupled with an emergency; See, United States v. Al-Azzawy, 784 F.2d 890 (9th Cir. 1985) and Elder v. Holloway, 510 U.S. 510 (1994.) These are but a few examples. The list is endless, but the theme is the same. Failing to immediately do whatever the police tell you to do, without protest, challenge or remarks, often will result in your being beaten-up, falsely arrested, and maliciously criminally prosecuted.

 

These, “Contempt Of Cop” cases, typical involve the police using force upon persons (i.e. beating them) and/or falsely arresting them, and then inventing bogus allegations of violations various “Contempt Of Cop” statutes, such as violations of: 1) Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer [commonly called "resisting arrest"]; the most abused statute in the Penal Code; 2) Cal. Penal Code § 240/241(b) (assault on a peace officer); 3) Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b) (battery on a peace officer); and 4) Cal. Penal Code § 69 (interfering with public officer via actual or threatened use of force or violence.) Cal. Penal Code § 69 is a “wobbler”; a California public offense that may be filed by the District Attorney’s Office as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County, allegations of violation of Penal Code 69 are usually filed as misdemeanors. In San Bernardino County, however, allegations of violation of Cal. Penal Code 69 are filed as felonies much more often than her sister counties. If they shoot you, they may even charge you with Cal. Penal Code § 245(d); assault on a peace officer in a manner likely to result in great bodily injury.

 

III. Police Incompetence: A Frequent Reason For False Arrests By Police Officers

 

Believe it or not, most experienced police officers have a pretty good functional understanding of basic fourth amendment search and seizure issues. For example, police academytraining about basic street contacts with civilians includes the following:

 

  • Detentions of persons (inside and outside of homes);
  • Arrests of persons (with and without a warrant, and inside and outside of homes);
  • The use of force on persons (pre-trial detainees and convicts);
  • Probation searches (inside and outside of homes);
  • Parole searches(inside and outside of homes);
  • Search warrants (obtaining and serving residential and commercial warrants);
  • Pat-down searches;
  • Warrantless searches of persons;
  • Warrantless searches of vehicles;
  • Warrantless searches of homes (i.e.exigent circumstances and emergency doctrine.)

 

Once you get past the basics, however, most police officers really don’t understand what the Constitution forbids them from doing. Police officers simply are not sufficiently trained to properly act within with long established Constitutional constraints on them. It takes years for lawyers and judges to understand fourth amendment search and seizure issues, and they often disagree about whether certain conduct is, or is not, constitutional.

 

Moreover, just like the rest of us, the cops make mistakes all of the time. They are human, and, therefore, false arrests by police officers are often the product of either sheer incompetence (i.e. the police arrest another for conduct that isn’t criminal), or of the police officer attempting to justify his/her unlawful conduct against a civilian (i.e. provoking verbal remonstrance, and then beating-up the civilian for protesting), by arresting, and then framing their victims (i.e. authoring false police reports, suborning and committing perjurious court testimony, concealing exculpatory evidence) of his federal criminal (18 U.S.C. 242), and otherwise tortious misconduct.

 

FALSE ARREST CASES; CALIFORNIA LAW

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – ELEMENTS AND PROOF – CALIFORNIA LAW

 

A “false arrest” is the same “tort” as a “false imprisonment” under California law. Unlike federal law, under California law, the burden is on the police to justify their “seizure” (false arrest / false imprisonment) of you at a civil trial (See, California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 1401 [False Arrest by Peace Officer Without Warrant] and 1402 [Peace Officer's Justification / Defense To Claim Of False Arrest].) Under California law, a peace officer (i.e. police officer or deputy sheriff) may arrest another for a felony for which the officer has “probable cause” to believe person committed, or may arrest another for a misdemeanor that was committed in their presence (See, Cal. Penal Code § 836.) “Presence is not mere physical proximity but is determined by whether the offense is apparent to the officers senses. People v. Sjosten, 262 Cal.App.2d 539, 543544 (1968″.) An officer can arrest a civilian, upon probable cause, for any felony; committed in the presence of an officer or not. Cal. Penal Code § 836. However, it does not violate the fourth amendment, for an officer to arrest for a misdemeanor that was committed outside of the presence of the officer.

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – NO “QUASI-QUALIFIED IMMUNITY” – CALIFORNIA LAW

 

Cal. Penal Code § 847(b) provides:

“There shall be no civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, any peace officer . . . acting within the scope of his or her authority, for false arrest or false imprisonment arising out of any arrest under any of the following circumstances:

(1) The arrest was lawful, or the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.”

Although police civil defendants have argued that Section 847(b)(1) immunizes peace officers for false arrests like the “qualified immunity” provided for police false arrest civil defendants federal court, that code section cannot be reasonably construed that way. The first part of Section 47(b)(1) (“The arrest was lawful”), logically changes nothing, for if the arrest was lawful, then there is no liability under anyone’s theory; kind an unintended legal redundancy. The second part of Section 47(b)(1) (“the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful”), could only reasonably be meant to apply to a situation, where an officer arrested a civilian based upon either: 1) an arrest warrant that did issue, but for which there was no probable cause to have issued (the officer who obtained the arrest warrant on insufficient grounds committed the fourth amendment violation, and is liable for the false arrest, unless otherwise protected, such as by “qualified immunity“), or 2) when the officer had “reasonable cause”, which is essentially a term equivalent to “probable cause” under the jury instructions that are used at the trial of this particular tort (See, CACI 1402; . . . arrest lawful if . . . “reasonable cause to believe that the plaintiff committed a crime is the standard for whether a peace officer’s arrest of a civilian was lawful.) Therefore, logically, Section 47(b)(1) provides no immunity for California peace officers for a false arrest. That does not mean, however, that a state or federal judge won’t disagree with that proposition. It is not fully developed under either California law, or by the federal district court’s interpretation of that statute.

 

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – FEDERAL LAW – GENERALLY

 

A “false arrest” under federal law, is considered a violation of a person’s right to be free from an “unreasonable seizure” of their person under the Fourth Amendment (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction for Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.) The United States Supreme Court has defined a “seizure of a person” as when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave the presence of police officers and to go about their business. See, United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544 (1980.)

 

In 1871, Congress enacted the Ku Klux Klan Act (42 U.S.C. 1983), that gives any person whose federal Constitutional rights have been violated, a right to sue, any person who violated those rights under the color of state law, in a United States District Court. Section 1983 lawsuits can also be brought in a state court of general jurisdiction; See, 42 U.S.C. 1988. Accordingly, a person who is falsely arrested by a peace officer (i.e. police officer, deputy sheriff, or some other officer who derives peace officer powers from state law), may sue the police officer under Section 1983, as well as under California state law.

 

In federal court, in a civil Fourth Amendment “arrest without probable cause” case (a federal false arrest case), the jury is instructed at the end of the case, on the following definition of “probable cause”:

 

“Probable cause exists when, under all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] at the time, an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a fair probability that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime” (See, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20, Arrest Without Probable Cause Or Warrant.)

Therefore, that standard, whether “an objectively reasonable police officer would conclude there is a “fair probability” that the plaintiff has committed or was committing a crime”, is the standard that the propriety of an arrest, outside of the home is judged by, in federal court in the states comprising the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 9.20). It doesn’t matter what the thousands of other cases, from the Supreme Court on down, say about what “probable cause” means. All that matters, is what a civil jury is going to be told is the standard that they should judge the facts by, in their deliberations (a civil jury is the “Judge of the facts” ["trier of fact"], and the District Judge is the “Judge of the law”.)

 

Some justices say that the words “probable cause, are found in the text of the fourth amendment itself, and that is the standard for a seizure of a person by the government that was established by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1791; not reasonable suspicion:

 

“MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, dissenting.

I agree that petitioner was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. I also agree that frisking petitioner and his companions for guns was a “search.” But it is a mystery how that “search” and that “seizure” can be constitutional by Fourth Amendment standards unless there was “probable cause” [n1] to believe that (1) a crime had been committed or (2) a crime was in the process of being committed or (3) a crime was about to be committed.

The opinion of the Court disclaims the existence of “probable cause.” If loitering were in issue and that [p36] was the offense charged, there would be “probable cause” shown. But the crime here is carrying concealed weapons; [n2] and there is no basis for concluding that the officer had “probable cause” for believing that that crime was being committed. Had a warrant been sought, a magistrate would, therefore, have been unauthorized to issue one, for he can act only if there is a showing of “probable cause.” We hold today that the police have greater authority to make a “seizure” and conduct a “search” than a judge has to authorize such action. We have said precisely the opposite over and over again. [n3] [p37]

In other words, police officers up to today have been permitted to effect arrests or searches without warrants only when the facts within their personal knowledge would satisfy the constitutional standard of probable cause. At the time of their “seizure” without a warrant, they must possess facts concerning the person arrested that would have satisfied a magistrate that “probable cause” was indeed present. The term “probable cause” rings a bell of certainty that is not sounded by phrases such as “reasonable suspicion.” Moreover, the meaning of “probable cause” is deeply imbedded in our constitutional history. As we stated in Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 100-102:

The requirement of probable cause has roots that are deep in our history. The general warrant, in which the name of the person to be arrested was left blank, and the writs of assistance, against which James Otis inveighed, both perpetuated the oppressive practice of allowing the police to arrest and search on suspicion. Police control took the place of judicial control, since no showing of “probable cause” before a magistrate was required.

That philosophy [rebelling against these practices] later was reflected in the Fourth Amendment. And as the early American decisions both before and immediately after its adoption show, common rumor or report, suspicion, or even “strong reason to suspect” was not adequate to support a warrant [p38] for arrest. And that principle has survived to this day. . . .

. . . It is important, we think, that this requirement [of probable cause] be strictly enforced, for the standard set by the Constitution protects both the officer and the citizen. If the officer acts with probable cause, he is protected even though it turns out that the citizen is innocent. . . . And while a search without a warrant is, within limits, permissible if incident to a lawful arrest, if an arrest without a warrant is to support an incidental search, it must be made with probable cause. . . . This immunity of officers cannot fairly be enlarged without jeopardizing the privacy or security of the citizen.

The infringement on personal liberty of any “seizure” of a person can only be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment if we require the police to possess “probable cause” before they seize him. Only that line draws a meaningful distinction between an officer’s mere inkling and the presence of facts within the officer’s personal knowledge which would convince a reasonable man that the person seized has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a particular crime.

In dealing with probable cause, . . . as the very name implies, we deal with probabilities. These are not technical; they are the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 175.

To give the police greater power than a magistrate is to take a long step down the totalitarian path. Perhaps such a step is desirable to cope with modern forms of lawlessness. But if it is taken, it should be the deliberate choice of the people through a constitutional amendment. [p39] Until the Fourth Amendment, which is closely allied with the Fifth, [n4] is rewritten, the person and the effects of the individual are beyond the reach of all government agencies until there are reasonable grounds to believe (probable cause) that a criminal venture has been launched or is about to be launched.

There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today.

Yet if the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can “seize” and “search” him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) Douglas,J. Dissenting.

Moreover, it does not matter what the arresting officer’s state of mind was, even if he was mistaken as to the crime committed, so long as in retrospect, a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that there was a “fair probability” that you committed a crime.

 

The Closely Related Offense Doctrine; A Reasonable But Now Extinct Approach To Whether Civil Liability Attaches To An Arrest.

 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals used to employ a doctrine entitled the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Under that doctrine, if an officer arrested a civilian for one particular crime, but the police officer didn’t have probable cause to have arrested the person was for that crime, if a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed to have arrested the person for some other crime that was “closely related” to the crime that the person was arrested for, then the arrest is valid under the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine.” Bingham v City of Manhattan Beach, 341 F.3d 939 (9th Cir. 2003.) However, the “Closely Related Offense Doctrine” was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146 (2004.)

 

“Our cases make clear that an arresting officers state of mind (except for the facts that he knows) is irrelevant to the existence of probable cause. . . . That is to say, his subjective reason for making the arrest need not be the criminal offense as to which the known facts provide probable cause. As we have repeatedly explained, the fact that the officer does not have the state of mind which is hypothecated by the reasons which provide the legal justification for the officer’s action does not invalidate the action taken as long as the circumstances, viewed objectively, justify that action. . .. [T]he Fourth Amendments concern with reasonableness allows certain actions to be taken in certain circumstances, whatever the subjective intent.” See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 15253 (2004.)

Accordingly, the arresting police officers belief about what crime a person committed is irrelevant. All that matters is whether a reasonably well trained officer would have entertained a belief that the person arrested committed a crime; that is, the “reasonably well trained officer” in the abstract. If that fictional “reasonably well trained police officer” would not have believed that a crime had been committed, the arrested person may be able to obtain compensation for his/her false arrest.

 

Many times an officer mistakenly believes that certain conduct is a crime, but it’s not (See, Tab above for Police Misconduct News“, and the Section therein entitled “Possum Impossible”; the Lorenzo Oliver case; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that, as matter of law, no crime committed.) Other times, an officer arrests a person for a crime that he has no warrant or probable cause for, but, under the facts as the officer knew them, there was nonetheless a crime committed, that would have been apparent to the officer is he was familiar with that particular criminal statute. So long as a reasonably well trained officer would have believed that probable cause existed from the facts known to the arresting officer, the arrest is generally lawful. See, Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 15253 (2004.)

 

Atwater And The Rise Of The Police State

 

If a police officer arrests you for any violation of law, even a parking ticket or a seat-belt violation, actually taking you to jail and booking you does not violate the Fourth Amendment; at least since 2001. See, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) (arrest for violation of Texas seat-belt statute that carries a maximum $50.00 fine and no jail, not violative of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures”.)(See also, however, stinging Dissent by Justice O’Connor in Atwater:

 

“Such unbounded discretion [to arrest for even the most trivial offense] carries with it grave potential for abuse. The majority takes comfort in the lack of evidence of an epidemic of unnecessary minor-offense arrests. Ante, at 33, and n. 25. But the relatively small number of published cases dealing with such arrests proves little and should provide little solace. Indeed, as the recent debate over racial profiling demonstrates all too clearly, a relatively minor traffic infraction may often serve as an excuse for stopping and harassing an individual. After today, the arsenal available to any officer extends to a full arrest and the searches permissible concomitant to that arrest. An officers subjective motivations for making a traffic stop are not relevant considerations in determining the reasonableness of the stop. See Whren v. United States, supra, at 813. But it is precisely because these motivations are beyond our purview that we must vigilantly ensure that officers post stop actions which are properly within our reach comport with the Fourth Amendments guarantee of reasonableness . . . . The Court neglects the Fourth Amendments express command in the name of administrative ease. In so doing, it cloaks the pointless indignity that Gail Atwater suffered with the mantle of reasonableness. I respectfully dissent.” Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001) O’Connor, J., Dissenting.

FALSE ARREST BY PEACE OFFICER – FEDERAL LAW – QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

 

Under the Qualified Immunity Doctrine, so long as a reasonably well trained officer could have believed that a person’s conduct constituted a crime, the officer who actually violated the Constitutional rights of another is nonetheless immune from being liable for damages caused by the officer’s Constitutional violation:

 

“The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). If the alleged conduct did not violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id. A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id. at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009). Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.” Hopkins v. Bonvicino, 573 F.3d 752 (9th Cir. 2009.)

 

These days, qualified immunity for false arrests are so common, that they almost make false arrest cases impossible to win.


WHAT YOU CAN DO

 

Someone has to stand-up to the bullies of society, who think that using state police power to humiliate others, is funny, and makes them big men (or women.) There are thousands of others like you, who are good people, and have been somehow, for some reason that you could not have ever imagined, victimized by the government. It might as well be you. Stand-up for justice. Stand-up for our form of self-government. Stand-up for the spilled-blood of our fathers, who bravery died to prevent the very thing, that the government is doing to you right now.

 

Click on “Home”, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation. Also, if you have been the victim of a False Arrest or Excessive Force by a police officer, check our Section, above, entitled: What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“.
Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.

 

Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq.