Practice Areas: Civil Rights

The Law Offices of Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, LLP specialize in police brutality, false arrest, unjust convictions and all civil rights violations. Our exclusive focus on civil rights gives us an in-depth understanding of the law. Our attorneys have extensive experience in state and federal jurisdictions. Our clients have been awarded millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys lawyer.


Call the Law Offices of Rothman, Schneider, Soloway & Stern, LLP at 212-571-5500 


What are civil rights?

Protecting civil rights is an essential part of the democratic values of the United States. Everyone realizes that interfering with another's civil rights is a violation that creates an action for injury, but before you can protect your civil rights, you must recognize and know what they are. However, articulating an exact definition of civil rights can be difficult to pinpoint because it is a very broad set of laws. Civil rights are an expansive and significant set of rights that are designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment; they are the rights of individuals to receive equal treatment (and to be free from unfair treatment or discrimination) in a number of settings -- including education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and more -- and based on certain legally-protected characteristics.

Police Brutality

Q. What is police brutality?

Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct which involves undue violence by police members. Widespread police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that prosecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law.

Q. What do I do if I was a victim of police brutality?

Police officers are charged with protecting the public and most officers do that. However, as in any profession, there are some officers who do not uphold their responsibilities and instead abuse their authority. Some of these officers use excessive force in situations that do not warrant it.

When is Police Force Excessive?

Officers are, of course, permitted to use force, if a situation warrants it. However, police officers are expected to use a continuum of force meaning that they should only use the amount of force that is justified in the situation and that is necessary to prevent a suspect from fleeing or to prevent people from being injured or killed. If an officer uses force in excess of the force that is necessary to get custody of a suspect or to prevent injuries or killings then the officer may be guilty of using excessive force. Some common examples of excessive force include:

  • Physical force against a person who is already in police custody and is not resisting being in custody;
  • Using a weapon against a person who does not have a weapon or a person whom a police officer should reasonably assume does not have a weapon; and
  • Using force to intimidate a suspect or a witness into giving a statement.

Anyone can be the victim of excessive police force. However, the Department of Justice statistics indicate that excessive police force is a larger problem for minority populations and that police officers need more training in this area.

A Victim’s Right to Sue

If you have been the victim of excessive police force, or police brutality, then you have the right to seek damages for your injuries. You may be able to bring a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the police officer violated your Fourth Amendment Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and your Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional right to equal protection under the law. Additionally, you might be able to bring a claim under the federal Civil Rights Act.

State law may also give you a viable cause of action in state court. The state constitution may have similar protections to the federal constitution, for example. Also, if you were hurt, or a loved one was killed, by the police brutality then you may be able to bring a negligence or wrongful death claim.

Potential defendants in your claim include not only the police officer(s) who acted with excessive force but also the police department and municipality or other government entity that employs them.

Additionally, you have the right to file a complaint and request an investigation into the police officer’s activities either with your local police department or the entity in your state that is responsible for such investigations.

Excessive police force can have a profound effect on your life and could have caused you injuries that you should not have had to sustain. Therefore, it is important to understand your rights and to seek compensation if you believe that you have been a victim of excessive police force.

Q. What is considered excessive force by a police officer?

The term 'excessive force' is not precisely defined; however, the use of force greater than that which a reasonable and prudent law enforcement officer would use under the circumstances is generally considered to be excessive. ... Police brutality is a violation of the law.

Q. Can I sue a police officer?

Federal and state laws protect citizens from abuse and other violations by government officials, such as police officers. Victims of abuse by police can sue the officers individually as well as the local governments that employ them. ... If the police acted negligently, however, that is not enough to overcome immunity.

Q. How do I report police misconduct?

You must approach them in a calm and organized manner.

  • Step 1: Write everything down. This step is extremely important and must be done as soon as possible after the incident. ...
  • Step 2: Consult with an attorney. This step is essential if you were arrested following the incident. ...

Step 3: File a Police Misconduct Report.

Q. What is considered harassment by a police officer?

Police harassment is an abuse of an officer's authority by continually or arbitrarily stopping someone, aggressively questioning him or her, or by conducting an unwarranted or illegal search and seizure.

Police harassment can take a variety of forms and include diverse victims. Some common examples of police harassment include:

  • Illegal spying or placing certain people under surveillance
  • Racial or ethnic profiling
  • Use of excessive force
  • Making racist, sexist or homophobic comments
  • Illegal detention

Illegal search and seizure

Q. What can a lawyer do in police brutality cases?

Most police officers are committed and ethical. They work a difficult, life-threatening job, and their days are extraordinarily stressful. However, police officers also exercise a great deal of control over the lives of the people they interact with, and an abuse of this power is particularly egregious. The personal injury lawyers at RSSS Law have experience helping the innocent victims of police brutality pursue justice and compensation.

The physical, emotional, financial and legal consequences of police brutality can be staggering. We place a lot of trust in the police, and a betrayal of that trust should not go unacknowledged or un-pursued. And our police brutality lawyers will not allow that.

At The Cochran Firm, we’ll be there for you. Our police brutality lawyers will listen to your story and advise you on how best to proceed with your claim.

If you’ve been the victim of police brutality, a personal injury lawyer can help. Please call RSSS Law today at 1-212-571-5500 for a free consultation.

Examples of Police Brutality

Most of us are familiar with the sad, sordid recordings that catch what we usually think of as “police brutality:” physical violence perpetrated by a police officer on a restrained or otherwise helpless suspect. And these cases are horrible.

However, our police brutality lawyers understand that police misconduct has many different forms, including:

• Unnecessary physical violence

• Unnecessary and degrading strip searches

• Sexual assault

• Coercion, blackmail or other uses of police power to force you into doing something you don’t want to do

• Racial profiling

False Arrest

Q. What does false arrest mean?

A false arrest and/or false imprisonment occurs when your liberty or freedom of movement is unlawfully restrained. Although you typically bring claims of false arrest or imprisonment against a police officer, you can also bring a claim against a private citizen (and his or her employer) who restrains you against your will.

Q. When do I have a legal claim for false arrest?

You may have a claim of false arrest if you were arrested without "probable cause."

Q. What is probable cause?

This term comes from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Illinois v. Gates (1983) defined probable cause as having "substantial chance" or "fair probability" of criminal activity could establish probable cause. A better-than-even chance is not required., although a mere suspicion of criminal activity is not enough.

However, a police officer may restrain you for a brief period of time if he or she suspects that you have committed a criminal act. Terry v. Ohio (1968).

Q. Can I sue for false arrest if the search warrant contained untrue statements?

. Not necessarily. If a police officer had a warrant that appeared valid and was obtained in good faith, the officer may have had probable cause to arrest you.

Q. Can I sue if the charges were dismissed or if I was found not guilty?

Not necessarily. A claim or lawsuit for false arrest depends on whether the arrest or detention was based upon probable cause, not on the guilt or innocence of the person who was arrested or detained.

Q. Can I sue for false arrest if I was found guilty of the crime?

. Probably not. If you were convicted of the crime for which you were arrested, the conviction may be used as conclusive proof that the police had probable cause to arrest you. However, you may be able sue if the police had an illegal intent for arresting you or if the police used excessive force when they arrested you.

Correction Office Misconduct

Q. What is Correction Office Misconduct?

Civil Rights FAQ

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