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Detroit Legal Blog

Use of Force by Michigan Police Officers

Feb 20, 2017, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Police Brutality

If you are in a position where you are considered a suspect in a criminal investigation the potential for charges and severe criminal penalties are common reasons to be worried. But the reasons to be concerned begin even before you are charged with a crime because even a simple misunderstanding during the arrest process can have a devastating impact. Stories about deaths and severe injuries inflicted on unarmed suspects have become far too common, both nationally and in Michigan. Every citizen should have an idea of the rules regarding the use of force by law enforcement as a way to help prevent the kind of confusion that can change lives forever.

The Use of Force is a Constitutional Issue

The United States Supreme Court set forth the standards for the constitutional use of force by law enforcement in the 1989 case of Graham v. Connor. The case involved a suspect who sustained multiple injuries when he and a friend were pulled over by a city police officer who became suspicious after seeing Graham quickly enter and exit a convenience store attempting to get orange juice to counteract his diabetic condition. The Supreme Court wrote that the Fourth Amendment guarantees citizens the right to be secure against unreasonable seizures, and that any use of force by law enforcement must meet an “objectively reasonable” standard.

The “Objectively Reasonable” Standard for Use of Force

Under the objectively reasonable standard, the use of force by a law enforcement officer is examined to see whether the officer’s actions are objectively reasonable “in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.” According to the Supreme Court, the reasonableness of the action must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the benefit of hindsight. Making such an assessment is determined by the facts and circumstances in each situation, with special attention to the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat and whether the suspect is resisting arrest or trying to flee.

Use of Deadly Force

The objectively reasonable standard is applied to all uses of force by law enforcement, including the use of deadly force. The most controversial uses of deadly force come when it is used against an unarmed suspect, as evidenced by protests of police shootings of unarmed suspects throughout the country.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that in a situation where the suspect is unarmed the use of deadly force to prevent escape is constitutional only if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a serious threat of physical harm to the officer or to others.

How a Detroit Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

An arrest is a tense occurrence for everyone involved. The suspect is concerned about being taken away from friends and family, while the law enforcement officers are on high alert in case the suspect resists arrest or attempts to flee. In such an emotional environment, it only takes one unexpected move for things to get out of hand. So if you feel you may be arrested soon, it is important to remember that even if your actions during arrest may be perfectly innocent you could still be subject to the use of force if a reasonable officer would view it as necessary.

If you are under investigation or feel that you may soon be subject to arrest, you should contact an experienced Detroit criminal defense lawyer for counsel on how to avoid situations that may lead to the use of force. Michigan criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis has worked both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, so he is able to understand both sides involved in an arrest and can help you to reach the best possible outcome in your case.

Contact Davis Law Group online or call (313) 818-3238 today for a confidential consultation.