As part of the last 2021 legislative session, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed several police reform bills, including SB 2, which might make it easier for citizens to sue police officers for the harm they suffered. These lawsuits regularly stem from police misconduct, including excessive force, unlawful shooting, sexual assault, and more.
If you believe that you suffered harm when a cop violated your rights, you should discuss the matter with an experienced civil rights attorney as soon as possible.
Immunity from Lawsuits
One of the greatest hurdles to legal justice for civil rights violations by police officers is qualified immunity. This prevents an officer – or other actors of the government – from being held liable for constitutional violations unless the plaintiff can prove that there was a violation of “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” This is a surprisingly high standard that victims cannot meet in many cases.
California also has its own laws limiting the liability of officers and government officials, as one law provides immunity by stating that “a public employee is not liable for injury caused by his instituting or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding within the scope of his employment, even if he acts maliciously and without probable cause.” This law was not meant to apply to police officers when enacted, though courts have interpreted the statute to apply to cases against officers, as well.
Simply put, it has been very difficult for any victim of constitutional violations and harm to hold police officers accountable for their actions in California.
Effects of the New Law
As signed by the governor, Senate Bill 2 allows for law enforcement agencies to revoke the licenses of peace officers who engage in serious misconduct. California was only one of four states that did not yet have such a decertification law. Moreover, the law aims to prevent those officers from going to work at other law enforcement agencies if they are fired from one for misconduct.
Once an officer is decertified, the immunity provision discussed above can no longer be used to protect them from liability. However, this does not mean lawsuits against police officers will suddenly be easy. The California Tom Bane Civil Rights Act still requires plaintiffs to prove specific intent or deliberate and spiteful interference by officers for a successful case. The initial version of SB 2 would have amended this requirement, but that provision was removed prior to passage.
While police accountability is increasing in California, victims still face an uphill battle when trying to seek justice for violations of their constitutional rights. It is important to have a highly-skilled civil rights attorney on your side if you might need to bring this type of case.
Consult with a Riverside, CA Civil Rights Attorney Today
At DeLimon Law, we stand up for the rights of those who suffered harm due to the unconstitutional misconduct of police officers. Contact us to discuss how we might help in your situation.