Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Illinois

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Between the presence of police body cams, dash cams, and passerby cellphone footage, the filming of police interactions with civilians is ubiquitous and can garner a lot of media attention. Some of these interactions that are captured depict instances of police misconduct.

When police officers and other law enforcement officials act in a way that goes beyond the scope of their authority and infringes on your civil rights, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries by filing a civil lawsuit.

Qualified Immunity

Illinois recognizes "qualified immunity", which protects police officers from civil liability, to a certain extent. The rationale for this is to enable law enforcement officers to do their job without the constant worry of being sued over every contact that they make with the public.

Illinois also has a law (known as a police officers' bill of rights) that gives officers protection in criminal and other investigations, including a waiting period before they must talk to investigators concerning citizens' complaints. Although these aspects of the law can make it more difficult to address police misconduct, victims can still get an opportunity for relief by initiating a civil lawsuit.

Summary of Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Illinois

See the chart below for a summary of police misconduct laws and claims in Illinois, including links to relevant statutes. Although the chart provides a helpful introduction to the law, it's advisable to consult with an attorney in complex cases and to address further questions.

Statutes

Illinois Statutes Chapter 65:

  • Sections 5/1-4-5 and 5/1-4-6, (indemnification for injuries caused by police officer)

Illinois Statutes Chapter 740:

Causes of Action

 

 

There are several causes of action that a plaintiff can bring based on police misconduct, including the following:

  • False arrest
  • False imprisonment
  • Abuse of process
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Excessive force
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Assault and battery
  • Wrongful death

Standard of Proof

The plaintiff has a different burden than in other civil cases because of "qualified immunity." For instance, instead of merely showing that the officer was negligent, the plaintiff needs to prove that their injury was due to the officer's "willful and wanton conduct" and that the officer didn't have a legitimate reason for their action, such as restraining the plaintiff from resisting arrest.

False Arrest: Plaintiff must show that the officer didn't have probable cause (reasonable grounds for believing a crime was committed and that the arrested person committed it) to make the arrest.

Abuse of Process: Plaintiff must show the following:

  • The defendant intentionally used a specified legal process;
  • The defendant's use of the legal process was primarily for an improper use and not for its intended purpose;
  • The defendant's use of the process for an improper purpose was a cause of the plaintiff's damage; and
  • The amount of the damage suffered by the plaintiff.

Related Statutes

  • 720 ILCS 5/31-1 (Resisting/obstructing a peace officer)
  • 20 ILCS 2610/14 (removal, demotion or suspension; charges; hearing; review under Administrative Review Law)

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.

Police Misconduct Laws and Claims in Illinois: Related Resources

Discuss Illinois Police Misconduct Laws and Claims with an Attorney

When an officer engages in police misconduct, it's a very serious matter. If you or someone you know has been personally impacted by police misconduct, it's in your best interest to contact an Illinois civil rights attorney who can assess your case and help assert your rights.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.