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What is Considered Excessive Force?


When a government official uses force that is beyond the minimum amount that is necessary in order to diffuse a situation or to ensure no one is harmed, this is known as excessive force. Excessive force is an issue that can arise in a number of different contexts, from handling prisoners to conducting a military operation. However, when we think of the use of excessive force, we tend to think of law enforcement and the amount of force they use during an arrest. Excessive force in this context is also known as police brutality. It is every individual’s constitutional right, according to the Fourth Amendment, to be free of excessive force.

Defining Unreasonable Force

One example in which the Supreme Court found that excessive force was used was in a case wherein an unarmed and non-threatening teenager was shot in the head by police as he was fleeing a house he burglarized. At the time of the incident, state law permitted the use of any necessary means to arrest fleeing suspects. This was overturned by the Supreme Court given that it allowed the use of reasonable force.

The use of deadly force can only be used during the arrest of a suspect if both of the following apply:

  • It is necessary to prevent the suspect’s escape
  • The officers have probable cause to believe the suspect poses a serious threat of death or severe physical injury to the officer or to others

That said, a suspect does not have to sustain fatal or serious injuries in order for the use of force to be considered excessive. Excessive force can be found even when injuries are minor if it is determined that force was used unreasonably under the circumstances.

The Varying Degrees in Use of Force

The Supreme Court understands that the right to make an arrest often inherently requires some use of force, including a certain degree of physical coercion or threat. This right should not be abused, however. As such, the degree of coercion or force used must be proportional to the threat. This can be escalated in response to the threat, using the following methods:

  • The officer uses his or her physical presence.
  • The officer uses verbal statements, such as direct orders or a request that is not threatening.
  • The officer uses bodily force, such as kicks, punches, or grabs.
  • The officer uses weapons, such as a baton or a Taser, or police dogs.
  • The officer uses lethal weapons, such as a firearm.

If you are facing criminal charges and experienced excessive force during your arrest, this is a constitutional violation that can be addressed by filing a civil rights complaint.

Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney in Chicago

If excessive force was used during your arrest, you might have a civil claim against the officer or group of officers that caused your injuries. If it is found that your rights were violated during the arrest, this could invalidate any evidence that might have been uncovered in a criminal investigation. At the Law Office of Steven in Chicago, our skilled criminal defense attorney is dedicated to providing fierce legal representation and protecting the rights of every client he serves.

Get started on your case today and contact our office at (312) 436-0638 to schedule a free case evaluation.