Chicago Police Brutality Lawyer
Nationwide attention has been turned to the issue of police brutality and use of excessive force in recent years as protests have erupted over the treatment of people — often minorities — stopped or arrested for seemingly minor offenses and ending up the victims of shootings, choke holds, TASERs, or other abuses that led to injuries or deaths.
The use of excessive force has been an all-too-common problem in Chicago for many years. One recent round of claims involves prisoners who say they were abused and their civil rights violated at the Homan Square police detention center, including strip searches, cavity probes, and being shackled without access to food, water, restrooms, or their lawyers — when police may have had no probable cause to arrest the men making the complaints in the first place.
Over the course of the last decade, Chicago has paid more than half a billion dollars in lawsuits related to police brutality — enough money to have built five high schools or paved 500 miles of streets, according to the Sun-Times.
While one segment of society has protested and decried police abuses, another has rushed to defend officers with arguments that none of these people would have been injured or killed if they had “complied” with police orders or not committed even minor crimes — such as selling loose cigarettes or rolling through a stop sign — that resulted in their encounters with police.
When Police Cross A Line
Often, someone who encounters police in Chicago may feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Because of the stories about police abuses, some people may feel when they’re stopped or arrested that their lives or safety may be threatened when they’ve done nothing wrong. That fear can result in saying or doing the wrong thing, which in turn leads police to escalate the encounter to assert their authority. Too often, that leads to tragic outcomes.
However, when a police officer crosses a line and violates your civil rights or uses excessive force, you may have recourse in court — and a defense to any charges brought against you stemming from the incident in which you were brutalized or in which your rights were violated.
If you experienced police brutality during a traffic stop or other type of arrest in Chicago or the surrounding area, the criminal lawyer Michael O’Meara can provide skilled defense for your charge and fight to ensure that the officer responsible for violating your rights is held accountable for the abuse.
Your Constitutional Rights
People suspected of crimes didn’t always have the rights they have today. During the course of American history numerous cases were tried in our court system, including all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, before the rights stated in the Bill of Rights were applied across the board.
Once upon a time, state and local governments weren’t bound by the Bill of Rights at all, meaning citizens had no right to non-interference with their freedoms from city, county, or state governments unless specific protections had been written into local and state laws.
Over the years, people accused of crimes were extended the protections of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, this meant that when being questioned, arrested, or charged they had protections that included:
- The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures
- The right to an attorney
- The right to remain silent and to avoid self-incrimination
- The right to a speedy trial
- The right to a jury trial
- The right to confront witnesses against them
- The right not to be tried twice for the same crime
- The right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment
Among the natural extension of these rights is that police are not allowed to use unreasonable force when arresting you or to threaten you with force or actually use force when questioning you about your suspected involvement in a crime.
When police violate your rights, the consequences can include the exclusion from trial of evidence obtained through the use of threats or force. In many instances, the charges against you may be dropped when police use excessive force against you or violate your constitutional rights.
When Can A Chicago Police Officer Use Force?
In Illinois, there are some circumstances when a police officer is considered justified in the use of reasonable force. Under 720 ILCS 5/7-5, those circumstances include:
- The officer is defending himself or others from physical injury when making an arrest
- You resist arrest or threaten to resist arrest
An officer may use deadly force when:
- You resist arrest or attempt to escape arrest, AND
- You have committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony involving serious injury or the threat of serious injury, or
- You are attempting to escape with the use of a deadly weapon, or
- There are indications you’ll endanger the lives of others or cause serious injury to others unless you are arrested without delay
If an officer uses force outside of these circumstances, such as slamming you against the hood of a police car or on the ground when you have peacefully submitted to arrest and did not attempt to resist, the officer may be deemed to have used excessive force.
Common Types of Civil Rights Violations in Illinois
Use of excessive force is only one way in which a police officer may violate your rights when making an arrest, booking you on suspicion of a crime, interrogating you, or detaining you. Other types of common violations include:
- Coercing a confession through the use of force, threats, intimidation, or blackmail
- Knowingly arresting you without probable cause
- Planting or falsifying evidence
- Making false or misleading statements in a police report or in court
- Conducting an illegal search of your person or your property
- Conducting unlawful surveillance or wiretaps
- Using a TASER without justification
- Withholding food, water, bathroom access, or necessary medical treatment
- Denying access to a lawyer
- Sexual harassment or abuse
These types of violations can leave you physically or emotionally traumatized in addition to the stress and uncertainty of a criminal charge pending against you.
Contact a Dedicated Chicago Police Brutality Lawyer
If you have been beaten or abused while in police custody, or believe your rights were violated, a dedicated and compassionate Chicago police brutality lawyer can listen to your story and discuss your legal options. A skilled attorney may be able to help get your charges dismissed or reduced. Additionally, you may have options for suing the police department for compensation of your physical or psychological injuries.
Michael O’Meara is an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney who passionately believes that every person accused of a crime is entitled to justice and to be free from abusive police practices. When your rights have been violated, O’Meara will work tirelessly to ensure that your side of the story is heard and police are held accountable.
O’Meara has more than 20 years of legal experience, including several years as a prosecutor in Cook County and more than a decade as a criminal justice lawyer in Chicago that includes a proven track record of obtaining the best possible results on behalf of defendants in criminal cases.
Call O’Meara Law LLC today at 312-909-0706 to schedule an appointment to share your story and learn how he can help you with your case.