Under Missouri law, law enforcement officers can only use the physical force necessary to make an arrest or subdue a suspect. Any more than that is considered excessive force.

Excessive force cases can be tragic and frustrating. They often involve life-changing, serious physical injury, and they are difficult to prove. Law enforcement agencies are adept at minimizing evidence and protecting their own. This can leave victims feeling like they have nowhere to turn.

The civil rights attorneys at Niemeyer, Grebel and Kruse are tireless representatives for victims of excessive use of force. Call us today for a free case evaluation – 314-241-1919.

What is excessive force, and how is it defined in Missouri?

Excessive force is a type of police misconduct that occurs when a law enforcement officer uses more force than is reasonably necessary to make an arrest, subdue a suspect or protect themselves or others from harm. It can take many forms, from using physical violence to using deadly force.

Under Missouri Revised Statutes 563.046, if an officer uses force when subduing a suspect, their officer’s actions must be “objectively reasonable in light of the totality of the particular facts and circumstances confronting the officer on the scene.”

When considering an excessive force claim, juries will consider the details of the case, such as:

  • The severity of the crime
  • Whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to public safety
  • Whether the suspect was resisting arrest or trying to flee
  • The officer’s prior use of force
  • Whether the officer gave a warning before using force
  • If the officer used a weapon, what type and how was it used?

Officers in Missouri have the authority to use lethal force when they reasonably believe it’s necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others.

What does excessive force look like?

Excessive force can take many different forms in different contexts. We’ll list some examples below.

Excessive force during an arrest

This might involve an officer inflicting physical violence, such as punching, kicking or choking a suspect who is already in handcuffs and poses no threat. It could also involve using a Taser on a suspect who is complying with orders, setting police dogs on a person who has given themselves up or shooting a suspect who is unarmed and fleeing.

Excessive force in pretrial detention

This might involve an officer sexually assaulting a detainee, beating a suspect during an interrogation, or placing a detainee in a position where they’re at risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Excessive force in jails and prisons

This might involve an officer using excessive physical violence on an inmate, using chemical sprays excessively or unnecessarily or failing to protect an inmate from violence from another inmate.

How can you protect yourself if you are confronted by police officers who may be using excessive force?

If you are ever confronted by a police officer who appears to be using excessive force, it is important to remember that you have certain rights.

First and foremost, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions or provide any information beyond your name and address. You also have the right to an attorney, and you should exercise this right if you are arrested or detained.

If the officer begins to use force, it’s difficult because there’s no “right answer” in this situation, but it is generally best to cooperate. Resist the urge to fight back, as this could escalate the situation and lead to further violence.

Instead, focus on remaining calm and protecting yourself from serious injury. When you are able, seek medical attention first and then call an attorney second.

Is there anything you can do if you believe that you or a loved one has been a victim of excessive force?

If you believe that you or someone you know has been the victim of excessive force by law enforcement, there are a few steps you can take. First, it is important to document the incident as thoroughly as possible.

This means taking photographs or videos of any injuries, gathering witness statements and writing down everything that you remember about the encounter.

Once you have collected this evidence, you can file a formal complaint with the police department or contact a civil rights attorney. It is also important to note that filing a complaint will not guarantee that charges will be brought against the officer in question. However, documentation and eyewitness testimony can be crucial in holding officers accountable for their actions.

Your attorney can help you build a Section 1983 case. A Section 1983 case is a civil rights lawsuit under federal law that allows people to sue police officers (and other government officials) for violating their constitutional rights.

What are the consequences for police officers who use excessive force?

Police officers are entrusted with a great deal of power. They are given the authority to use force in order to maintain public safety and order. However, this power is not without its limits. When police officers use excessive force, they overstep their authority and abuse their power. The consequences for police officers who use excessive force can be severe. They may face criminal charges and they may be subject to disciplinary action from their department.

Officers in Missouri enjoy “qualified immunity,” which means they can’t be held liable in civil court for excessive use of force unless it can be shown that they acted with “willful and wanton misconduct or gross negligence” (RSMo Section 190.307).

Skilled and compassionate St. Louis civil rights attorneys

If you or a loved one have been a victim of excessive force, it is important to contact an experienced attorney right away. The attorneys at NGK Law are here to help you navigate through this difficult time. We offer free consultations so that you can discuss your case with us and find out how we can help. Contact us today for more information – 314-241-1919.


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