Suing the police:

What you can sue for:

Excessive use of force. If a police officer, corrections officer, parole officer or peace officer uses physical force when not authorized or uses more force than is necessary under the circumstances, this will constitute a battery and an assault.

False arrest. Occurs when you are arrested without "probable cause." Probable cause has different meanings for a cop than for a peace officer, a parole officer and a security guard.   This would be a violation of your constitutional rights, as well as false imprisonment.   It can be a false arrest even if you are not taken to the precinct and booked.   If handcuffs were placed on you or if you were confined in a squad car it can be considered an arrest and can be grounds for false imprisonment.

Malicious prosecution. Malicious prosecution is when a criminal charge is continued against you without probable cause.   You may be able to sue both the Police Department and the District Attorney or County Attorney.

Any violation of your constitutional and/or civil rights, include:
Negligence:   This would include such things as car accidents with police cars.   If a police car is responding to an emergency and has its lights and sirens on, you may have to prove "recklessness" in order to win you lawsuit.   As a rule, the Police Department cannot be held responsible for failing to provide police protection.   There are limited expections to this rule when the police have promised to protect citizens and didn't.

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How to sue the police or District Attorney:

The first thing that you must do is file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the incident.   In order to properly file a Notice of Claim you'll need to know who you must file a claim against and where to file the claim.   This can be confusing.   It is strongly suggested that you seek the help of a lawyer at this stage.   Failing to file a notice of claim on time or properly can result in your case being dismissed.

Your Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the incident.   For malicious prosecution and false arrest the 90 days run from the time that the charges against you are dismissed or dropped.   In those cases you may file 2 notices of claim. The first Notice of Claim covering issues such as assault, battery, false arrest and violation of your constitutional rights, you should file within 90 days from the time that it happens (usually the arrest date) and then the second Notice of Claim should be filed within 90 days after your charges are dismissed for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

90 days is not the same as 3 months.   If you were arrested on August 5, 2010, for example, you would have had to file your Notice of Claim by November 3, 2010.   If you file your Notice of Claim on November 4th or 5th, it will be late.   To check the time you can use this free date calculator.   Enter the date of your arrest and have it "add" 90 "days."   The resulting date is the last date on which to file the Notice of Claim.   If that day falls on a weekend or legal holiday you have until the next day to file BUT it's better to file it earlier than the 90 day's deadline limit.

If you do not file within the Notice of Claim within the 90 days, the court may allow you to file a late Notice of Claim.   You must ask the court for permission to file the late Notice of Claim before the Statute of Limitations (usually between one year and one year and 90 days) expires.   While the Statute of Limitations for someone under the age of 18 doesn't begin until the person turns 18, and can be extended for someone who is incompetent, those extensions don't apply to the Notice of Claim.   Even when it's for an infant or an incompetent it must be filed within 90 days unless a court give you permission to file one later.

After you file the Notice of Claim, the municipality will have the right to have a "hearing."   In essence the hearing is a deposition where a lawyer or other representative from the municipality will ask you questions on the record regarding what happened and how it has affected you.   They can also request authorizations to get medical records, if relevant, and even have you seen by doctors of their own choosing.   The purpose of this procedure is to give the municipality an opportunity to investigate your claim and preserve evidence that may be relevant as well as to give them the opportunity to settle your claim.   You cannot start a lawsuit in State Court until at least 30 days after you filed a Notice of Claim so that the municipality will have an opportunity to conduct the hearing.

Statute of Limitations: A Statute of Limitations is the time in which your case must be started before your right to sue is lost.   When suing the Police and most other government agencies and departments, that time will be from one year to one year and 90 days.   To be safe, assume that your lawsuit must be started within one year.   If you are disputing a decision from a government agency, such as a parole board, your time to sue will be much shorter!

Bringing the lawsuit: Your lawsuit can be brought in either State or Federal court.   Many lawsuits, which involve violation of constitutional or civil rights, such as illegal search and seizure, will be brought in Federal Fourt.   If the case can be brought in Federal Court and you bring it in State Court instead, the municipality may have the right to move the case to Federal Court.   As a rule, a case moves faster in Federal Court than it does in State Court, but it can be more difficult to follow the rules in Federal Court.

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