Police Misconduct Legal Representation

With his knowledge, passion and experience, police misconduct attorney Sarkis Jacob Babachanian battles police brutality, excessive force, overdetention and denial of medical care, policing the police one case at a time.

Serving clients at courts in state and federal courts throughout California.

brutal

Attorney Sarkis Jacob Babachanian

fights
bad cops, lying witnesses and false evidence
.

negotiates
justice when justice would otherwise not be forthcoming.

helps
you get just compensation for the loss of your civil rights through police misconduct, police brutality, overdetention and denial of medical care while incarcerated.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

―Thomas Jefferson

When you have police officers who abuse citizens, you erode public confidence in law enforcement. That makes the job of good police officers unsafe.

― Mary Frances Berry

I’m dead serious about this… When you have rogue cops, it’s just intolerable in a free society.

― Gov. Jerry Brown

Your Trusted Guide and Protector

If you or a loved one have been victimized by police brutality, excessive force, overdetention or substandard health care while in jail or prison, contact California police brutality attorney Sarkis Jacob Babachanian— Sark — to discuss what can be done to make things right.

Our Police and the Constitution

Our police are charged with protecting our safety. It’s an emotionally difficult, desensitizing, often frustrating job fraught with danger; officers don’t even know if they’ll come home again to see their families. But those who work in law enforcement know this in advance and need to guard against using their frustrations to excuse excessive force and other civil rights violations. Why? Because officers should know that in exercising their special police powers, their oaths to defend the Constitution come first. The moment they lose sight of this reality, officers need to leave law enforcement for something else.

There are, however, the “bad apples” – those who should not be officers and won’t leave voluntarily. Such officers are the “head breakers” who routinely take their frustrations out on members of the public. Rather than using common sense, proper training and simple people skills to peacably resolve evolving disputes by treating people politely and with respect, these “anti-peace officers” instead intentionally escalate confrontations simply because they think they can. When such officers contact headstrong persons who rightly or wrongly believe their rights are being violated, there’s bound to be trouble, and the cop always wins – at least on the street.

The Lawyer’s Role

That’s where civil rights lawyers like Mr. Babachanian come in. Like peace officers, lawyers too are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. These days, with so many new challenges to civil liberties, Sark is especially sensitive to the need to keep cops honest. If it were not for the deterrent effect of civil rights lawyers, more officers sworn to uphold the Constitution might succumb to complex pressures and run roughshod over what makes this country great.

Lawyers more than anyone else need to remain vigilant and do all they can to keep the police true to their oaths and operating within legal limits. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one day to find that our beloved, living Constitution has become nothing more than a dead, empty, meaningless document to which lip service is given – much like the constitution of our old nemesis, the Soviet Union. And that’s not what America is about.

 

The Law

Police officers may only use force reasonably necessary to do what the law requires them to do. But where is the reasonableness in the following examples?

  • An off-duty, reserve officer for the Los Angeles Police Department is irate because he scratched his truck against a plumber’s van while coming out of his apartment building’s subterranean parking lot. This “loose cannon” gets out of his truck and loudly and repeatedly screams for the elderly resident manager, cursing all the while. When she appears accompanied by her electrician, the “officer” rushes at both of them causing the electrician to lose his footing and trip. While falling, the electrician simply bumps the officer causing the officer to draw his gun, order the electrician to his knees, handcuff him, scream obscenities at him and repeatedly jab the muzzle of his pistol into the kneeling, handcuffed man’s head while threatening to kill him on the spot. The electrician is arrested and prosecuted for assault on a peace officer.
  • A student of obviously Middle Eastern heritage is studying in a UCLA library when a student security guard demands that he – and only he – produce an ID. The student, sensitive to discrimination experienced by many Middle Easterners in modern times, says he’ll produce his ID if the guard first asks a student with obvious European ancestry to produce an ID. Instead, the guard calls for campus police who arrive while the student is on his way out of the library. Rather than just let it go, the officers (one of whom has a history of excessive force complaints including the apparently unnecessary use of deadly force) accost the student, prevent him from leaving and ultimately shoot him multiple times with a taser gun, even while he’s down on the ground. The incident is captured on video by a fellow student and his camera phone.
  • The driver of a pickup truck full of probably illegal immigrants is running from police. The truck stops and most of the occupants jump out and run. A couple of the people who were in the bed of the truck don’t run and even though they’re not resisting are mercilessly beaten by baton-wielding LA County Sheriff’s deputies while a helicopter records the scene from above.
  • A San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputy is holding the passenger of a stopped car, an off duty member of the Armed Services on leave from Iraq, at gunpoint. The passenger is trying to comply with the deputy’s commands to get up off the ground when the deputy suddenly shoots him several times. Unbeknownst to the deputy, the incident is being videotaped.

Each of these incidents resulted in the filing of an excessive force complaint (and at least one in the filing of criminal charges against the officer). In most of these incidents, the offending officer lost his job. Most claims, however, are not so clear cut – largely because most claims don’t have videotape to back up the allegations of one side or the other. Still, using witness testimony and other methods, many excessive force complaints can be proven – and it is up to lawyers to prove them.

Each police misconduct claim is different. All turn on the law as it applies to the facts. The most important of these laws is 42 United States Code section 1983 (42 USC § 1983 or just “section 1983” for short). It provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

What this law means, in short, is that no person to whom the law applies may act under “color of authority” to deprive another person of their civil rights under the Constitution. Violators are subject to civil damages. The law applies to states and territories of the US, but not to federal civil rights violations (which are pursued under another theory called a “Bivens” claim).

The laws relating to section 1983 are complex and ever-evolving, and include many US Supreme Court opinions interpreting section 1983; contact Mr. Babachanian to discuss what needs to be done to make things right.

Qualified Immunity - the Basics

Want to sue the police for brutality or misconduct? Qualified immunity may well be your biggest obstacle.

Qualified immunity is a doctrine in U.S. federal law that arises in cases brought against state officials under 42 U.S.C Section 1983 and against federal officials under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Qualified immunity, when applicable, shields government officials from liability for the violation of an individual's federal constitutional rights[contradictory]. This grant of immunity is available to state or federal employees performing discretionary functions where their actions, even if later found to be unlawful, did not violate "clearly established law". The defense of qualified immunity was created by the U.S. Supreme Court, replacing a court's inquiry into a defendant's subjective state of mind with an inquiry into the objective reasonableness of the contested action. A government agent's liability in a federal civil rights lawsuit now no longer turns upon whether the defendant acted with "malice", but on whether a hypothetical reasonable person in the defendant's position would have known that his or her actions violated clearly established law. [From Wikipedia]

See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), holding that "qualified immunity" shields government officials from liability "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." In other words, reasonable ignorance of the law is an excuse for state or federal employees performing discretionary functions where their actions, even if later found to be unlawful, did not violate "clearly established law." Thus, a government agent's civil rights lawsuit liability now no longer turns on whether the defendant acted with "malice," but on whether a hypothetical reasonable person in the defendant's position would have known that her actions violated clearly established law.

Example of Facts Not Entitled to Qualified Immunity...

In Adams v. Speers, 473 F.3d 989 (2007), the Ninth Circuit held that CHP officer “off on a mission of his own creation, abandoning his assignment, picking up a buddy for no apparent reason except the excitement of the chase, barging in ahead of the police already engaged in pursuit, once attempting to use force against [decedent] and twice doing so, creating each time a serious hazard for himself as well as [decedent], and finally stepping out of his patrol car and, without warning and without the need to defend himself or the other officers, killing [decedent]”... ...”not entitled to qualified immunity.” You can read the opinion here; the facts, which turned my stomach, show how cops can and do go overboard.