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Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Arizona

Police officers are given wide latitude to stop and detain suspects, since they're entrusted with the enforcement power of the law. When an officer orders you to "freeze" or submit to a search, it's generally in your best interests to do so. But this doesn't mean they're above the law, as police misconduct -- whether it's blatant racial profiling or the use of excessive force -- is strictly illegal. If an Arizona officer has violated your civil rights, you may want to pursue a claim in civil court.

Police misconduct runs the gamut, from unlawful search and seizure (in violation of the Fourth Amendment) to planting false evidence on a suspect. And while police are protected by "qualified immunity" as long as their actions don't violate specific individual rights, you have legal options in the event they do in fact violate your rights.

Note: If you've been charged with criminal misconduct, seek advice from an attorney before filing a complaint against a police officer. A claim or complaint against a police officer while you have charges pending may waive your right to remain silent. Any information contained in your police misconduct complaint or claim may be used against you.

The following sections summarize your rights and legal options regarding police misconduct laws and claims in Arizona.

Arizona Police Misconduct Laws and Claims: The Basics

Learning about the law shouldn't be as hard as studying for the bar exam -- after all, laws apply to everyone. That's why we've prepared the following summary of police misconduct laws and claims in Arizona, including federal laws, written in "plain English."

Statutes

Arizona Constitution:

Arizona Revised Statutes:

Federal Laws:

Access to Police Records

Individuals have the right to access copies of public records, including duplicates of 911 recordings, police reports, police dispatch calls, photographs, and official police policies and procedures.

State Civil Claims for Police Misconduct

Individuals may file suit against individual officers and/or their public entity for intentionally or negligently inflicting injury. Such violations may include, but aren't limited to, the following:

  • False arrest;
  • Excessive force (i.e. police brutality);
  • Entering a home without a warrant;
  • Violating police department policies; and
  • Abusing a detained suspect.

Internal Complaints for Police Misconduct

Individuals who believe their rights have been violated by the police should contact the police department in question. Complaints against police officers are sometimes filed with the police department itself, but sometimes there is a separate department in the city that handles such complaints. Here are a few police departments where complaints may be filed:

Interference with Civil Rights

Federal code states that "Whoever, under color of any law, …willfully subjects any person…to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States [shall be guilty of a crime]."

Such deprivation of rights may include (but isn't limited to):

  • Physical assault;
  • Sexual misconduct;
  • Deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition or substantial risk of harm; or
  • A failure to intervene.

The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) investigates police misconduct claims and must prove the following elements in order to get a conviction:

  1. Defendant deprived a victim of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States;
  2. Defendant acted willfully; and
  3. Defendant was acting under color of law.

To file a complaint alleging criminal violations by a peace officer, contact your local FBI office and send a written complaint to:

Criminal Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

  • Arizona Law - Information about Arizona statutes, including those pertaining to criminal, family, employment, and injury law.
  • Official State Codes - Links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and DC.

Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Arizona: Related Resources

Get Legal Help With Your Arizona Police Misconduct Claim

As you can see, filing a successful claim against a police officer for misconduct is no easy task. Often, it comes down to a "he said, she said" type of argument and D.A.s are hesitant to bring criminal charges against officers in these types of cases. That's why it makes sense to have a legal professional on your side who knows how to access the evidence you need. Reach out to an experienced Arizona civil rights attorney today for some expert advice and peace of mind.

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