WV Criminal Lawyer

Police Misconduct, Civil Rights Law

So you want to sue the police….

I get calls every day from people in West Virginia, or from elsewhere who were arrested, etc., in West Virginia, who want to sue the police.  To be honest with you, I only seriously consider very, very few of these types of cases.  Sometimes, from what I hear in the first few minutes, or in a description of what allegedly happened, I don’t even want to get involved with it.

Since I know that people researching the law with regards to filing lawsuits against the police and police misconduct in West Virginia end up on the site, let me go ahead and tell you what I personally look for in a police liability case.

Number one, credibility.  If it’s going to be your word against the officer’s.  There must be some indication of credibility on your part.  That means preferably no criminal history.  College education is a plus.  A good career is a plus.  A good family is a plus.  Being married is a plus.  Being otherwise successful in life seriously bolsters your credibility.

Number two, corroborating evidence.  It is almost necessary to provide some corroborating evidence that the police engaged in misconduct.  It could be a witness (again, see comments on credibility), or it could be a videotape, an audio recording.  It could be found in official documentation, such as a police report or internal investigation, or even in a cruiser dashboard camera, or a police report.  It could be corroborated by law enforcement itself, such as through disciplinary action taken against the officer, or through a criminal prosecution of the officer.

Number three, damages.  If you have no damages, in most instances, there’s nothing to compensate you for.  This goes hand in hand with credibility.  Generally, if you are a credible, upstanding citizen, it will cause you damage to be wrongly arrested.  You might get fired.  You might lose business.  These are damages.  Maybe you were beaten and ended up in the hospital.  Medical bills, pain and suffering, etc., are damages.

Number four, your story of what happened to you has to piss me off.  If after hearing what happened to you really pisses me off, then I get excited about it.  Those are the types of cases I like to take.  One’s that I feel comfortable with taking to a jury and shoving down the state’s throat.  Where I feel truth and justice is on my side.

Number five, and lastly, I have to have a good feeling about the client.  I don’t want to take a risk for someone – and these cases are risky – if I don’t like them.  Because if I don’t like them, chances are a jury may not like them.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible for me, or for other attorneys, to take every justified case.  Other considerations are always at play.  It is one of the faults of our justice system.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask.  If you call me with your story, I will at least be able to tell you pretty quickly whether I would be interested in taking the case or not.

- John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

March 18, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liability, Governmental Liability, John H. Bryan, Lawsuits, Police, Police Misconduct

2 Comments »

  1. Unfortunately, there are some cases where these issues are clouded by the length of time a bad cop has had to do his dirty work, issues of some court cases taking years to sort themselves out, victims being afraid to say anything for fear of retribution, and the victims being a minority of some kind.

    If an officer in a high position has been conducting himself in other than an honorable way for YEARS, he could taint many of the other officers in his area and create conditions where a person APPEARS to be a terrible person, when in fact they are at worst young and nieve, and ultimately become a scapegoat. A life can be ruined before it ever has a chance to mature. A long history of arrests and court cases can ultimately all stem from one single corrupt cop. Thousands of dollars in bail money which can not ever be gotten back could be spent by someone trying to fight for themselves in an atmosphere that is completely tainted with lies and deception on the part of these bad officers.

    I would also think that if an officer (a third party) comes to speak with you and ADMITS that there has been ongoing deception and fraud and harassment within ranks, and gives lengthy apologies for same, even stating that the WVSP MIGHT pay someone’s medical bill for their trouble, that would be a pretty good indication of some wrongdoing.

    Bottom line, corrupt police officers can slander someone to the point where they appear not to be the good upstanding and moral people necessary to win a lawsuit.

    Comment by calhoununderground | March 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. It would be nice if you would look at my case. I’m not a fine up standing citizen. But at the time I was doing nothing wrong even a Magistrate agreed with me and dismissed the first time and the cop just went to another Magistrate and file the case again only changing the arresting officers name on the complaint. The case has since be dismissed again. but this time due to the three term rule. The DA was failed to bring the case to trial I think on Per pus. I have been charged again with Dui for Sleeping on my nephews motorcycle which I had no keys to and it was broke down at the time. I had went to the bar while waiting for the owner of the bike to get back with help never drove drunk. This case to is now waiting final order on a writ of prohibition for the three term rule. Which I should win by default the Magistrate failed to file a reply to the summons. So after 1 year and 7 months I am now the proud owner of 9 dismissals for 6 charges and May 18, 2010 it should be 10. There’s other things the cops have done that I think can be linked to these cops as a pattern of conduct to harass me threw this time. If you could its easier to show you the documents that proves what I’m saying. I don’t think that just because I’ve had problems almost 20 years ago shouldn’t stop me from winning this in a 1983 suit. Facts are facts and mine are in writting. And I plan on skipping state courts and going to fedral court with the suit.

    Comment by Robert Fortney | May 7, 2010 | Reply


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