Suing the police is your only practical remedy for violations of your constitutional rights. However, the police typically procure your bogus criminal prosecution for “resistance offenses”, to protect themselves from civil liability and obloquy. In those bogus criminal prosecutions for a “resistance offense” Mr. Steering also defends your criminal case in a manner more likely to result in your obtaining redress for the constitutional violations perpetrated against you, in a subsequent civil case.
Mr. Steering is a “civil rights lawyer” specializing in police misconduct cases***. He sues police officers, deputy sheriffs and other state and local peace officers, along with their municipal employers for damages for their violations of your federal Constitutional rights. Mr. Steering also sues police officers for misconduct claims under California state law. Usually we join the state law claims along with your federal claims in federal court, if they involve the same incident under the federal court’s supplemental jurisdiction.
POLICE MISCONDUCT CASES IN SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY.
San Bernardino County is a very special place when it comes to police misconduct. Officer Involved Shooting Investigations by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office are done by reading the police report (that is no joke). The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is not interested in prosecuting crimes by peace officers against the public for duty related activities such as falsely arresting civilians, using unlawful / unreasonable force upon civilians, unlawfully searching and seizing persons and places, authoring false police reports, committing perjury [for the government] , withholding exculpatory evidence, framing innocents [to protect selves from liability].
If a cop steals a candy bar or drives drunk or commits a sex offense Mr. Ramos has no problem with prosecuting the officer. If the crime committed by the officer is “duty related”, his/her employing Municipal employer and Mr. Ramos will back them all of the way; save that rare event that the duty related police outrage is proven by “real evidence”, such as when a police outrage is captured clearly on a video or audio recording. See, e.g. the SBSD beating of Francis Pusok.
“Backing them all the way” also includes criminally prosecuting the civilian victim of the police outrage.
The lawyers, the judges and the police all understand that if you are convicted of a crime you can’t sue the police for false arrest, regardless of whether the officer who arrested you either had a warrant or probable cause to believe that you committed a crime, Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
The lawyers, the judges and the police also understand that if you are convicted of a “resistance offense“, not only can you can’t you sue for false arrest, but now you can’t sue for anything else; based upon the bar of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and “the doctrine of collateral estoppel“. These doctrines will generally preclude one from successfully suing the police for “constitutional torts” such as false arrests (U.S. Const. Amend. 4), us of unreasonable force (U.S. Const. Amend. 4), retaliation for free speech / verbal challenge or protest police actions (U.S. Const. Amend. 1), withholding / concealing / destroying exculpatory evidence (U.S. Const. Amend. 5, U.S. Const. Amend. 6 & 14), (U.S. Const. Amend. 4) (i.e. unreasonable force, first amendment retaliation). This is because “resistance offenses” can only be committed against a peace officer if the officer was acting lawfully; in the lawful performance of their duties. Accordingly, if you are convicted of a “resistance offense” crime you generally can’t sue the police at all.
No one understands this all better than San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos. On May 15, 2013 Mr. Ramos announced the formation of his agency’s “CAPO” Division. That Division of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office’s mission is to literally prosecute those victims of police outrages perpetrated against them. This is no joke. Mr. Ramos announced to the world that his office will not be dismissed criminal cases where the alleged victim is a peace office. See, Channel 9 KCAL news piece on CAPO, starring Mr. Ramos.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos has established a Division in the agency whose mission is to prosecute the innocent victims of police beatings and bogus “contempt of cop arrests”; to preclude the victims of police outrages from obtaining redress (i.e. money from a lawsuit) by obtaining guilty pleas to the most de minimis offense.
Ask any criminal defense lawyer who practices law in San Bernardino County. They deal with the CAPO Deputy District Attorney’s who “persecute” these innocents; real innocents. They will all tell you that the District Attorney’s Office will prosecute their innocent clients to protect the police. They will tell you that the Deputy District Attorney’s in that office tell them that they have to ask the permission of the police officer “victim” to get his/her consent to dismiss the bogus criminal action against their clients. This also is no joke.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is one of the most brutal and dishonest police agencies in the United States. Like the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has no policy requiring their deputies to audio or video record their contacts with the public. They do this because they only want a judge or a jury to hear one side of the story; theirs. Any police agency that actually believes that recording their contacts with the public is going to benefit the police is delusional. It doesn’t. It may help with a few false complaints by civilians, but overall benefit from officers recording their contacts will be greatly outweighed by detriment those recordings would cause to the agency (i.e. the FBI did not even record their witness interviews until 2014.
MR. STEERING’S SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY POLICE MISCONDUCT CASES.
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, et al., U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2013), $714,000.00 settlement following jury verdict for excessive force and false arrest during search warrant execution in Apple Valley, 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 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.
LEGAL EDUCATION AND PUBLICATIONS.
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.
Penny Trent v. County of San Bernardino, et al.
On June 3, 2012, at approximately 3:30 p.m. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriffs Carolyn Chadwell and Kirsten Mitchell answered a call for service of a husband beating his wife at their home at 12486 Kiowa, Apple Valley, California . The deputies received no response to their knocking on the Penny and Wayne Trent’s door, so they entered the house and found Penny Trent and her husband partially undressed in the bathroom . Rather than leave the residence once the welfare of the residents was confirmed, Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell interrogated them about the call for service (i.e. the domestic violence call.) After discussing the incident with Penny and Wayne Trent, the Deputies decided to arrest Mr. Trent for felony corporal injury on a spouse (Penal Code Section 273.5), handcuffed him and put him in their patrol car.
When the deputies took Mr. Trent out to the patrol car to go to jail, they told Penny Trent to have a seat in the living wait in the living room, and they’d be right back. Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell placed Mr. Trent into the patrol car, and Deputy Chadwell returned to the residence with a Marsy’s Victim’s Card ; the brochure that is given to Domestic Violence victims  by police officers.
When Deputy Chadwell returned to the door of the home with the Marsy’s Card for Mrs. Trent, she saw
Penny Trent sitting on her living room couch. The couch appears at an angle to the front door area (See below, photo of view of couch from front door.) Deputy Chadwell apparently could not see one of Penny Trent’s lower arms when she saw her and stated to her: “Penny; where’s your other arm.” In literally less than one second after asking that question, Deputy Chadwell shot Penny Trent twice in her left leg. Although the bullets grazed her leg, Penny Trent was horrified from being shot, and at a complete loss as to why Deputy Chadwell would shoot her. This is all audio recorded ; a copy of the audio shown below.
Deputy Chadwell claimed that she shot Penny Trent because when she reentered the Trent residence, she saw Penny Trent with a blank stare on her face and said that Mrs. Trent’s hand was under a couch pillow. Mrs. Trent’s hand was just resting on the pillow on the couch, but from the front doorway area, Deputy Chadwell could only see her right hand. Deputy Chadwell didn’t give Mrs. Trent a chance to respond to her question, or to show her left arm. She just shot her within one second of asking her where her left arm was. Neighbor witnesses told the Sheriff’s Department that Deputy Chadwell then broke-down and cried about having shot Mrs. Trent.
Immediately after Deputy Chadwell shot Mrs. Trent, Deputies Chadwell and Mitchell ordered Penny Trent to exit her residence, and when she did, the deputies threw her to the ground on the rock front lawn, handcuffed her and placed her into their patrol car; imprisoning her there.
Audio recording by Deputy Chadwell of the June 3, 2012 shooting incident (the shooting takes place at 17 min. 02 sec. of the audio recording.)
Thereafter, several Sheriff’s Department supervisors and other officers came to the Trent residence and decided what to do with Mrs. Trent . After discussing the shooting of Mrs. Trent with each other, the Sheriff’s Department then conspired to take Penny Trent to the Apple Valley Station, so they could interrogate her in a coercive manner ; to try to get her to say something to try to justify their shooting of her  (she never did.) It’s a federal crime and federal constitutional violation to take a person to the police station for questioning, without probable cause to arrest them (Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811 (1985)). That’s just what they did to Penny Trent, and it’s shown on the recording shown below.
Notwithstanding Mrs. Trent’s repeated requests to leave the station, the Sheriff’s Department investigators kept Penny Trent at the station. They even created police reports showing that a crime had occurred (i.e. Cal. Penal Code § 245; assault with a deadly weapon), that Penny Trent was the “suspect” of the shooting, and that Deputy Chadwell was the “victim”. The geniuses at the Sheriff’s Department did a gunshot residue test on Penny Trent, even though she was the one shot. Even worse, the investigators at the Apple Valley station made Penny Trent undress down to her underwear, to take photos of any marks or bruises on her; supposedly for the criminal case against Mr. Trent.
Moreover, to add insult to injury, the Sheriff’s Department (Investigator Robert Thacker) unlawfully obtained a search warrant for the search of Penny Trent’s house, and used the bogus pretense of a criminal investigation, to perform their civil liability investigation. This was the Sheriff’s Department’s only chance to inspect the premises, as police officials cannot obtain a search warrant to do civil liability investigation; only to investigate crimes. Therefore, the Sheriff’s Department had to misrepresent the purpose of their application for a search warrant to Judge Stanford Reichert; claiming that their search would reveal evidence of a crime (the only crime really being Chadwell’s shooting of Penny Trent.)
Eventually, in the early morning hours of June 3, 2012, the Sheriff’s Department drove Mrs. Trent home after they were done with their illegal search of her residence.
Although ever since O.J. Simpson decapitated his wife “Domestic Violence” seems to be the worst crime that one can commit, because the Sheriff’s Department shot the domestic violence victim (Penny Trent), when they took Mr. Trent to the hospital that same evening, they posted no guard in / at his hospital room, and actually let him “escape.” To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Trent, because the Sheriff’s Department can’t prosecute Mr. Trent without publically implicating themselves in shooting the very victim of that crime.
None of this is surprising, save the actual shooting itself. Police agencies typically arrest the victims of their outrages, and in the coercive atmosphere of custodial interrogation, attempt, and often succeed, in getting their victims to make statements against their interest; statements that “spin” the facts or otherwise somehow shift all or part of the blame to the citizen – victim. This is normal, notwithstanding it being obvious to any peace officer that it’s unlawful to take someone to the police station for questioning in the absence of probable cause for their arrest. See, Hayes v. Florida, 470 U.S. 811 (1985.) The ends that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department will go to, to protect themselves from civil liability is incredible.
Moreover, although the Sheriff’s Department just couldn’t keep themselves from illegally taking Penny Trent to the police station in handcuffs (i.e. false arrest, kidnapping civil rights criminal violations), because they screwed up and shot the victim that they were there to save, they need to get a coerced and skewed statement of what happened. They need to get Penny Trent to the station there and now, even though they had no right to have done so, because the coercive environment of police interrogation, allows the cops to shape the story, and to get you to agree with statements that are not true and that are against your interest, because after that moment in time, you are going to not be so vulnerable, and will likely have a lawyer.
Notwithstanding all of that, the Sheriff’s Department didn’t get an actual formal statement from Deputy Chadwell, until five days after her attempt to kill Penny Trent; an audio copy of her interview being below and playable. Case Result: $600,000.00.
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: Case settled on appeal by defendants for confidential sum.
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: 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.
SUING POLICE OFFICERS IN FEDERAL COURT FOR VIOLATING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS; ENFORCING THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT.
The keys to the federal courthouse is something call “federal question jurisdiction“. “Federal question jurisdiction” entitles a person whose federal constitutional rights were violated by persons acting “under the color of state law”, to sue under federal law, including in federal court itself, for redress. A typical situation involves a peace officer (i.e. deputy sheriff, police officer) violating the federal Constitutional rights of a civilian by using unreasonable force upon them and/or by falsely arresting them, and thereafter procuring their malicious criminal prosecution; today’s norm.)
The federal court venue was traditionally very important to the enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment, because black persons of African descent couldn’t get a fair trial in Southern state Superior Courts following the Civil War (that ended in late April of 1865.) Although starting-out as a Post-Civil War Southern “social organization”, the “Ku Klux Klan” soon became the local Southern “Sheriff and his deputized posse”, who terrorized and murdered black persons of African descent while acting “under the color of state law”; under the authority of the Sheriff.
Imagine a “black widow” (not the spider type) suing the local Sheriff and his posse members for murdering her husband in a Post-Civil War Southern state Superior Court, where the judge and the jury members were either part of the murdering mob, or relatives and friends of those who were. Unless black persons had a remedy in a United States District Court, as a practical matter they had no remedy at all.
The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including and especially former slaves who had been “freed” with the ratification of the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery) by the states on December 6, 1865.
The 14th Amendment had been rejected by most Southern states, but was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states on July 28, 1868. Known as the “Reconstruction Amendment,” it makes any former slaves who were born in the United States, citizens, and forbids any state to deny any person (especially former slaves) “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Thereafter, in response to a letter to Congress from President Ulysses S. Grant, complaining of the conditions in the Southern states, on April 20, 1871 Congress enacted the the statute that we sue police officers under to this very day; The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871; 42 U.S.C.§ 1987. Also known as the “Third Enforcement Act”, Congress enacted Section 1987 to enforce the 14th Amendment; at that time to provide black persons of African descent with a civil remedy for damages in federal court against “the Sheriff” and his posse, who were ”acting under the color of state law” when they violated their victims’ federal constitutional rights (i.e. murdering black people in the South and otherwise terrorizing them. This is the very same law that we sue police officers under to this very day.
The Third Enforcement Act, also known as The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and 42 U.S.C. § 1987 provides:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable.”
Although the original immediate class of persons that the 14th Amendment was ratified to protect were black persons of African descent, those protections of the 14th Amendment apply to all persons.
Mr. Steering has been suing police officers and deputy sheriffs under 42 U.S.C. § 1987 since 1984. When the state or local police violate your federal constitutional rights (that, by the way, are shrinking by the day), a Section 1987 action is your federal civil remedy, along with any state law remedies permitted in the state where the police abuse occurred.
DEFENDING BOGUS CRIMINAL RESISTANCE OFFENSE CASES.
Mr. Steering is also a Criminal Defense Lawyer; specializing in defending innocents in “resistance offenses”, such as resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer (words that mean everything and mean nothing; Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)), Cal. Penal Code § 69 (the “turbo version” of Section 148(a)(1); interfering with duties of public officer via violence or threat thereof a felony), assault and battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code §§ 240/241(c) & 242/243(b)), and even assault on a peace officer with a gun (Cal. Penal Code §§ 245(c) & 245(d).)
Almost every good old fashioned police beating is accompanied by some sort of bogus arrest; routinely for some variety of “Contempt of Cop” or “resistance offense.” The police are often successful in their attempt to shift the blame for their use of unreasonable force upon or their false arrest of innocents, by procuring the bogus criminal prosecution of their innocent victims, for a “resistance offense.”
Although the resistance offenses differ (i.e. [Penal Code 148(a)(1); resisting / delaying / obstructing officer], [Penal Code 240/241(c); assault on a peace officer, [Penal Code 242/243(b); battery on peace officer], [Penal Code 69; using / threatening to use violence to deter / prevent public officer from performing duty]), there is one common element among all of them; they all require that the alleged “victim officer” be lawfully engaged in the performance of his/her duties. Therefore, if you’re convicted for any such “resistance offense”, there has now been a judicial determination that the police officer was not acting unlawfully; that he wasn’t falsely arresting or wrongfully detaining you; that he wasn’t using unreasonable force upon you; that he didn’t unlawfully search you, etc. Such a prior judicial determination that the officer was acting lawfully usually now precludes a lawsuit by you that alleges unlawful actions by the officer (i.e. false arrest or unreasonable force.)
It’s important for the government that the police convict you for a “resistance offense”, because under the doctrine of issue preclusion (“collateral estoppel“) or “claim preclusion” (“res judicata“), if an issue of fact or law has been determined against you in a prior judicial proceeding, you can’t re-litigate that fact or law determination in a subsequent judicial proceeding. It’s kind of like the Rodney King civil case in federal court in Los Angeles. LAPD Officers Sgt. Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell were criminally convicted in federal court of violating Rodney King’s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon him under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Therefore, when it came time for Rodney King’s civil case against the LAPD Officers for money, the issue of whether LAPD Officers Koon and Powell had violated Rodney King’s right to be free from the use of unreasonable force was already “res judicata”; a thing decided. The only issue left for the civil jury to decide was how much money to give Rodney King.
Therefore, in your situation, if you’re convicted of a resistance crime (a crime that for one to be guilty of, the police had to have been acting lawfully, like not using excessive force, not unlawfully arresting or detaining one, not retaliating against persons for exercising their First Amendment rights), the issue of the lawfulness of the officer’s conduct has already been decided against you, so invariably, save very few exceptions, you cannot successfully sue the police; you’re precluded from doing so because of your conviction. That’s why the cop who violates your constitutional rights will almost always will try to frame you for a resistance offense. This is standard operating procedure for the police, and that’s not a joke.
Moreover, under the cloak of the unnecessary and morally opprobrious immunity afforded police officers under the “Heck Doctrine” (Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994)), if you’re convicted of any crime, you usually cannot sue the cops at all; at least for false arrest. California adopted the Heck rule to bar civil rights claims in Yount v. City of Sacramento, 43 Cal. 4th 885 (2008.) So, under either federal or California law, if you plead guilty or even now no contest to anything, you can’t sue for your false arrest, even though the arresting officer may not have had sufficient probable cause to have arrested you when he did so.
These are policy decisions by the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court, to limit many persons’ right to sue police for real violations of their constitutional rights, for no legitimate reason. These policy decisions are made by those same Justices who profess that they believe that the courts shouldn’t be “super legislatures”, that make any such policy decisions and that such decisions should be left to Congress and state legislatures.
Thus, because of these “policy decisions” by the United States Supreme Court, in the real world, the cops can beat you, falsely arrest you, and falsely and maliciously procure your bogus criminal prosecution; all while you’re the victim of abuse by the police, and all, in the real world, with very little chance of anything happening to themselves. How many people are willing to spend ten’s of thousands of dollars to defend themselves on bogus misdemeanor “resistance offense” charges, when they can avoid spending all of the time and money that it takes to prove your innocence, by pleading to a de minimis misdemeanor, or an infraction, like disturbing the peace? How many innocent souls have pleaded themselves out court on good, righteous and provable civil rights actions against the police, because they either pleaded-out or stay in jail awaiting trial?
This is normal. This is reality. This what probably happened to you if you’re looking for us. This is why the police do what they do. Because they usually can. Because if they literally provoke you into expressing verbal remonstrance that results in the cops beating the stuffing out of you and falsely arresting you; without any substantial chance of any real vocational or civil liability problems, they often do so. Internal Affairs Investigations do not take the word of civilians over than of an officer, and even when there’s some sort of audio or video recording of the incident that proves that the cop’s lying, the employing agency will almost always back their officer and find creative ways to justify it.
Let’s face it. Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) can mean almost anything, so young upstart Deputy District Attorneys who want to make a name for themselves by protecting the police and stomping their victims into submission (i.e. (a) overcharging innocents to keep them in jail on high bail, that often results guilty pleas to ”resistance offenses” to just get out of jail, that precludes the defendant-innocent from successfully suing the police; (b) abusing the ambiguity of “resistance offenses” such as Cal. Penal Code Sections 148(a)(1) (resisting / delaying / obstructing officer) or Section 69 (using or threatening violence to prevent or deter officer from performing their duties) to pursue groundless criminal proceedings against the innocent victims of police abuse, until they run out of money and capitulate by pleading to a crime that they are innocent of.)
If you get criminally prosecuted for a crime when you’re the real victim, the officers who violated your Constitutional rights get “two bites at the apple”. It’s like a Three Stooges coin toss; “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
HEADS THEY WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE; POLICE PROSECUTION OF POLICE MISCONDUCT VICITIMS GIVES THE POLICE TWO BITES AT THE APPLE.
The police are not technically a “party” to your bogus criminal proceeding; “The State” or “The People of the State” is the other party. Because “issue preclusion” or “claim preclusion” generally requires a person sought to be bound by a prior judicial determination to have been a party to the prior proceeding and had the opportunity to fully and fairly litigate that issue, even if you somehow avoid being framed and are acquitted, that the finding of your innocence (“not guilty verdict”) is not binding on the police in a subsequent civil rights action against the same officers who tried to frame you.
However, if you had been convicted, since you were a party to the prior judicial action (the defendants), the issue of your guilt and all of the legal consequence flowing therefrom (i.e. basically can’t sue any more) have already and permanently been determined against you. So, for example, if a police officer unlawfully “seized” you cannot sue for your false arrest; not because your conviction adjudicated those issues of fact that go into the formulation of whether your arrest was lawful (i.e. whether the police had either a warrant or probable/reasonable cause to believe that you committed a crime); only because the Conservative Wing of the Supreme Court took it upon themselves to make-up a rule, a “policy decision”, that prohibits guilty people from being able to obtain damages for their truly false arrest. See, Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994).
If the prosecution is able to convict you for a “resistance offense” (i.e. resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer, battery on a peace officer, preventing public officer from performing a duty of his/her office), there has been a similar judicial determination that the police necessarily were acting lawfully. Accordingly, as one of the elements of these resistance offenses is that the peace officer was engaged in the lawful performance of his/her duties, and the jury must have found that to be so, generally you are also now precluded from suing for the use of unreasonable force upon you, or even that the police unlawfully searched you or your property; via the Heck bar (i.e. that you were convicted, and, therefore, can’t now successfully sue the police) and via the Doctrine of “Collateral Estoppel”. In other words, since there has now been a judicial determination that the officer was in the right, and that you were not, you lose in any subsequent lawsuit against the police. All police officers know this.
If somehow you don’t get convicted (of crime that you didn’t commit), the agency still backs them all of the way. It doesn’t matter whether the police agency knows that the officer violated the law and your rights. All that they’re concerned with is protecting the officer and the police agency; that’s it; even if (and especially) if their officer severely injured or actually murdered an innocent.
GENERAL CRIMINAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS PRACTICE.
Jerry L. Steering has been practicing criminal law since 1984 (in California since 1986.) He has tried and otherwise litigated hundreds of criminal cases, including murder cases, manslaughter cases, assault and battery cases, drug possession and drug manufacturing cases, DUI cases, vehicular homicide cases, white-collar investor fraud cases, mail fraud cases, sex-offender or drug offender registration cases, domestic violence cases, theft and embezzlement cases, towing industry cases, and the general spectrum of criminal violations. However, the overwhelming majority of Mr. Steering’s criminal law practice involves the defense of bogus criminal prosecutions for “resistance offenses” (i.e. resisting / delaying peace officer, battery on peace officer.) Unlike other areas of criminal law practice, almost every one of Mr. Steering’s resistance offense criminal case clients were factually and actually innocent.
Mr. Steering is an expert in defending your bogus criminal action, in a way to best protect, and to enhance, your ability to ultimately obtain some justice; reasonable compensation and redress, for your police beating, for your false arrest, for your unlawful search and seizure, and for your malicious criminal prosecution.
We have enough diligence and experience to nail the cops down on their stories in these criminal actions, that simply cannot be done in a regular civil action. When they’re on the stand in a criminal case, the cops don’t have their experienced civil lawyers to take them out in the hallway and tell them what to say, like they do in civil cases. Moreover, the Deputy District Attorneys who prosecute these bogus “Contempt of Cop” cases, don’t know enough, and often don’t care enough, about the intricacies of the Constitutional, legal and evidentiary issues, that are being somehow dealt with in the criminal case, that will have a marked effect on your prospects for redress for your being framed; a substantial monetary recovery; the only “redress” presently available to victims of Constitutional Torts.
In other words, we use the bogus criminal case, to shape the evidence and the primary “swing issues” in that case, to not only win your bogus criminal case, but to also dramatically improve the odds of your ultimately prevailing on your civil First Amendment retaliation claims, and Fourth Amendment unreasonable force, false arrest and malicious prosecution claims.
IF YOU’RE THE VICTIM; YOU’RE THE ENEMY.
Moreover, the system, and the “players” and “politicians” in that system, now recognize you as their enemy. As a matter of political and institutional reality, you, the victim of constitutional violations by peace officers acting under the color of authority, are someone who poses a real threat to them. After all, the cops put you in the hospital, and you’re now being prosecuted for resisting or delaying or obstructing them handcuffing you while you were trying to cover your face from the blows (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer; the most vague, nebulous and the most misused and abused section in the California Penal Code.)
If they beat you up too badly, the D.A. will throw in a Count of battery on a peace officer (Penal Code Section 243(b)) or felony preventing public officer from performing duty by use or threat of force (Penal Code Section 69). In the real world, 99% of the time, battery on a peace officer is really battery by a peace officer. If this offends your personal belief system, I’m sorry to pop your cherry. This is the modern world of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence (i.e. the right of the police to search and seize you and you home and property). The law isn’t what’s in a book or on the internet. The law is what happens to real people in the real world. The law isn’t what it says; only what it does.
Yesterday you believed that police officers were basically honest, with a few deviants here and there. Yesterday, you didn’t feel threatened if a police officer was driving behind you, because you believed that since you don’t break the law (and or since you look like white and respectable type), that the police are not going to do anything bad to you. Yesterday is now gone. You still can’t believe that this really happened to you. You really didn’t do anything wrong, but you’ve been beaten-up and falsely arrested, and to boot, you are now being accused of a crime by the District Attorney’s Office; really to beat you down to protect the police from liability. That’s reality. Today is a new day in your life. You would not have believed what really happened to you if it had happened to another. That all being said, since the police beat you up, you either deserved it or you didn’t. So, how are the politicians going to handle your situation?
Just imagine a Chief of Police or a County Sheriff announcing at a Press Conference, that his agency took the word of independent civilian witnesses over that of a group of police officers and is firing the officer or deputy for either using unreasonable force upon or falsely arresting a civilian. What would the politicians say? We know that that will never happen.
Although we elect politicians and insist on them being totally honest with the public, we actually expect them to act in a dishonest and disingenuous way with the public. We expect the City Attorney to guard the City coffers, by denying that the police unlawfully committed a duty related activity (i.e. using force on an innocent arrestee, or simply falsely arresting an innocent), even if they know otherwise; even if the evidence is so overwhelming and moving that no reasonable person would deny (with a straight face) that the police acted wrongfully. So, on the civil side, the City or County is going to claim that you’re to blame; that it’s your fault.
Then, the D.A.’s office jumps in the fray, and attempts to get you to plead to any crime; a plea that will almost assuredly preclude you from obtaining redress for the wrongs perpetrated upon you. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld release – dismissal agreements; an agreement where the D.A.’s offices promises to drop the bogus criminal case against you and let you out of jail, in exchange for a promise not to sue. Newton v. Rumery, 480 U.S. 386 (1987.) Creepy, huh? Extortion? Sounds like it. MacDonald v. Musick, 425 F. 2d 373 (9th Cir. 1970)(conditioning dismissal of criminal DUI charge in exchange of promise not to sue police is felonious extortion under California law.) But so long the government is the extorting party, no crime, since no one is going to prosecute a Deputy District Attorney for making such a dismissal offer.
Even when it’s obvious that a public entity is going to have to most likely pay money to a victim of their officer, the agency will never admit fault. So, since they didn’t do anything wrong, you must have. Therefore, you’re the enemy, because you’re a potential threat to them; to their paycheck; to them being imprisoned (however remote that really is); to them being promoted in the future; to them being disciplined (i.e. reprimanded, suspended, demoted or terminated) and to them being exposed to obloquy and disgrace.
Most of our law firm’s Police Misconduct clients, were factually and actually innocent of anything; yet most of them where at the wrong spot at the wrong time, or had the audacity to question police authority.
When many of our clients questioned or challenged police orders to them, the officers routinely have claimed that they have now “resisted” them or have “delayed” the officer’s investigation of them, or of another (real or imaginary; the most common claim by officers in bogus “Contempt of Cop” cases), by asking the officer for further identification, or by asking why there was a red laser targeting spot on their chest, or by asking why the officer wanted them to get prone-out on the ground when they had no clue why the police were even engaging them at all. These actions by our clients, true innocents, have typically resulted in them getting “gooned” by the cops, and half of them getting criminally prosecuted for non-existent crimes, to protect the officers and the agency from civil liability and disgrace. In all of these situations, the cops were going to show our client’s who’s in charge, and it’s not the client. These are truly ego crimes; “Contempt of Cop” crimes.
WHY THE COPS TRY TO DESTROY YOU; TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.
The Police know that once they’ve crossed-over a clear and well-defined Constitutional boundary, such as your Constitutional right to be free from a sadistic police beating (U.S. Const. Amends. 4 and 14), that they must immediately take steps to shift the blame for their use of force upon you; for it certainly can’t fall upon them, lest they be considered monsters; “Bad Apples”. Their first step being to either immediately arrest you, or to restrain or confine your freedom to leave their presence. This is done as a matter of reflex, rather than a product of reflection, by police authorities. You’re not going anywhere until the police figure-out what to do with you. Hospital, Jail, or otherwise. It’s automatic for you to be taken to jail, even if you’re taken for a humiliating visit to the hospital (bloody and in handcuffs, being escorted by the police), on the way there. It doesn’t matter that you committed no crime. All that does matter at that time, is that they did (i.e. they beat you up; federal and state crimes), and they don’t plan on taking the blame for doing so. They justify their behavior, by accusing you of de minimis and vague criminal offenses; especially of California Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) (Resisting / Obstructing / Delaying a Peace Officer.)
If your sadistic police beating was bad enough to be actually kept in the hospital, or if it’s obvious to the Patrol Sergeant that the patient didn’t deserve what he got (and assuming that your Patrol Sergeant isn’t the truly creepy kind, you may be given a Citation to appear in Court, or you might even get “long formed”. Getting “long formed” is police lingo (in the real world), for not formally arresting you now, but nonetheless concocting a phony story about the event that resulted in you being in the hospital, and based upon the template of the bogus story, create phony reports to support that story, and conceal and destroy evidence that belies the concocted story, such a deleting an audio or video recording of the actual incident complained of, or a materially significant portion of any such recording. Usually, the officers create not all that serious allegations of criminality by you; not enough for you to realistically be exposed to any jail time, but serious enough to justify their conduct, and, most importantly, serious enough to get you criminally prosecuted.
The police really do create false and misleading police reports to shore-up the odds, that some young and ambitious Deputy District Attorney, will want to endear himself to a police agency, by protecting them from civil liability. The young and ambitious Deputy District Attorney files a criminal case against you for violation of California Penal Code Sections 148(a)(1) (Resisting / Obstructing / Delaying a Peace Officer), and Sections 240/241(c) and 242/243(b); Assault and Battery on a Peace Officer. Now what do you do? If you take a plea bargain, you can’t sue for the damages that you suffered from being falsely arrest and falsely prosecuted for a crime, and the mental and financial toll that being falsely arrested and falsely prosecuted takes on one (i.e. job loss, attorney’s fees.)
If, rather than take a plea bargain, and you stand your ground and defend yourself in court, you can pay many thousands of dollars for a lawyer, to defend you on a bogus criminal charge, that is usually a misdemeanor, and usually will result in no jail time, and a de minimis fine. What do you do? Do you spend the money on a lawyer and hope that things work about and that after you prevail on your criminal case, that you can sue and get pay-back and paid back? Mr. Steering has been contemporaneously defending these bogus Police Misconduct criminal actions, and prosecuting civil rights lawsuits for victims of police outrages, since 1984. He will know what to do in your particular case.
SUING THE POLICE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS AND OTHER TORTIOUS CONDUCT, WHEN NO CRIMINAL CASE HAS BEEN FILED AGAINST THE POLICE MISCONDUCT VICTIM.
In many cases, notwithstanding efforts by local police agencies to procure the filing of a bogus criminal case against the victim of their oppression, Deputy DA’s see the same reports from the same cops, that again and again and again, seek the criminal prosecution of persons for “resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace office in the lawful performance of his/her duties”, when the “suspect” always ends-up in the hospital. Therefore, many times, we can proceed to sue the officers in the appropriate court (usually federal court), without having to wait for the conclusion of underlying bogus criminal proceedings, since they will not be any.
If you want to know what do to if you’ve been falsely arrested, retaliated against for exercise of your constitutional rights, beaten-up by the police or maliciously prosecuted, please contact us at (949) 474-1849 or email@example.com. Thank you for visiting with us, and best of luck. Even if you have a legal question that’s important to you, and you just need lawyer input, we’ll be glad to answer your questions.
Thank you again for visiting with us.
Jerry L. Steering, Esq.
Suing Bad Cops And
Defending Bogus Criminal
Cases For 33 Years
***The State Bar of California does not recognize a specialty in police misconduct
which is most of Mr. Steering’s law practice.
*In the District of Columbia only.
**In Beverly Hills Office only.