Newport Beach Civil Rights Lawyer

Newport Beach Excessive Force Lawyer

LAW OFFICES OF JERRY L. STEERING

We Watch The Watchmen

Get Justice * Get Compensation

 

Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Lawyer who represents person who were the victim of the use of excessive force and false arrests. Mr. Steering’s law practice serves Newport Beach and the other 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, 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)(2003); obtained $200,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force.

 

Sharp v. City of Garden Grove, Orange County Superior Court (2000); $1,110,000.00 for unreasonable seizure of person (i.e. 45 minute detention.)

 

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

 

Farahani v. City of Santa Ana, U.S. District Court, Central District of California  (Santa Ana)(1990); $612,000.00 jury verdict for unreasonable force.

 

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 case.

 

 

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 Normandie 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; WHATEVER THE COPS SAY IT IS.

 

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).)

 

So, the Supreme Court 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-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.

 

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? It means that we will forgive the police officer’s violation of your Constitutional rights, so long as a reasonably well trained officer could have possibly believed that his conduct didn’t violate your Constitutional rights. The more bizzare the rulings of the Supreme Court become, the more not understandable they become. Moreover, the rulings that come out of the Supreme Court and the federal Courts of Appeals have plenty of the “bizzare” to them, as they bend-over backwards to make previously established unconstitutional conduct, Constitutional, to make sure the “bad guy” doesn’t escape conviction, by “hiding behind the Constitutional to escape conviction.

 

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 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.

Serving the Orange County cities shown below:

 

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