Police officers have a responsibility to use reasonable amounts of force to carry out their restraint or arrest against another. But when an officer uses more force than necessary, leading to injury, justice must be served. 

Use of Force By Law Enforcement

Under Pennsylvania law, an officer “is justified in the use of any force which he believes to be necessary to effect the arrest and of any force which he believes to be necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making the arrest.”

However, this does not mean the officer can use a deadly weapon in a run-of-the-mill traffic stop. In order to use deadly force, the officer must believe that:

  • 1. “Such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape; and
  • 2. The person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony or is attempting to escape and possesses a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless arrested without delay.”

When an officer has someone in custody, he or she is permitted to use such force which prevents escape. This may include deadly force in extreme cases. Such deadly force is only justifiable by an officer when:

  • 1. “Such force is necessary to prevent the apprehension from being defeated by resistance; and
  • 2. The escaped person has been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony, possesses a deadly weapon or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay.”

An officer may also use force to stop an individual from committing suicide or committing a crime in the process thereof. It is justifiable to use force in such cases except for deadly force unless the act of committing suicide will cause death or serious bodily harm to other people.

Such an example may be the threat of explosives, deadly weapons, etc.

Use of Force By a Private Citizen

A private citizen who makes a lawful arrest of another is justified in any use of force directed by an officer, except the use of deadly force unless such force is necessary to prevent death or injury to himself or another.

The citizen can only use such force if he or she knows it is a lawful arrest. If the private person assists or makes an unlawful arrest, it is only justifiable if the individual believed the arrest to be lawful or the facts presented would make it appear lawful.

Examples of Excessive Force

While we often think of police brutality, deadly force, and unlawful shootings as examples of excessive force, it is actually categorized by a variety of actions. Some of the most common forms of excessive force include:

  • Failure to begin confrontation with verbal commands, escalating the situation.
  • Causing unnecessary injury to the detained.
  • Causing injury to a restrained suspect with no justification.

Remember, though qualified immunity does protect law enforcement officials from assuming some forms of liability, in cases of excessive force, many jurisdictions will not allow the officer to claim qualified immunity. However, the burden of proof still lies on the plaintiff to show that the officer used excessive force which led to serious injury or death.

Police officers have a responsibility to protect citizens, but when they cause injury, there needs to be justice.

Excessive Force By Police Officers: Kalinoski Law Offices P.C.

We trust the police to protect us. But who protects you from lawbreaking cops? If your civil rights have been violated by the hands of a police officer, you need the legal support of Scranton lawyer Craig Kalinoski. He will protect your rights and bring you the justice you deserve. Contact us today.

We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law to civil rights and personal injury.

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