Police Misconduct Claims in North Carolina

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

There are a variety of ways that police officers can engage in misconduct. One way is using excessive force when interacting with civilians. It's important to remember, however, that whether or not force used by the police is "excessive" will be very dependent on the facts of each case. For example, if a suspect resists arrest and threatens the life of an officer, that officer may be justified in using a certain degree of force. And, if the suspect is using a weapon, deadly force on the part of the police officer will likely be justified.

Although excessive force is the type of police misconduct that receives the most media attention, there are other ways in which the police may act outside of the scope of their authority. One example is committing a false arrest. A false arrest is not necessarily arresting an innocent person, but rather arresting someone without the requisite probable cause. Another way that a police officer may engage in misconduct is by harassing innocent people, particularly if it's based on racial profiling or some other form of unlawful discrimination.

Police Misconduct Claims in North Carolina: The Basics

If you have a legal question, it's important to go to the primary source - the applicable statute. But, it can also be helpful to read an overview of the statute that's free of cumbersome legal jargon. In the following table, you'll find an overview of the proper way that police officers in North Carolina must conduct themselves, how a person's civil rights may be interfered with, as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s)

North Carolina General Statutes:

When a Law-Enforcement Officer May Make an Arrest

A police officer may make an arrest without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the arrestee has committed a criminal offense or violated a pretrial release order.

When a Law-Enforcement Officer May Use Force

A police officer is justified in using force when they reasonably believe it necessary to:

  • Prevent the escape of a suspect in custody (who the officer believe has committed a criminal offense); or
  • Defend themselves or a third person from the use or imminent use of physical force while arresting a person or preventing a person from escaping.
Interference with Civil Rights

It's interference with civil rights when:

  • Two or more people motivated by race, ethnicity, gender, or religion, whether acting under color of law or not, conspire to interfere with another person's exercise or enjoyment of their constitutional rights; and
  • At least one person engaged in this conspiracy uses force, repeated harassment, causes property damage, or makes threats to cause harm to a person or property in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Related Statute(s)

North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 15A, Subchapter II, Section 15A-211, et seq. (Law-Enforcement and Investigative Procedures)

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 Claims in North Carolina: Related Resources

Questions About Police Misconduct Claims in North Carolina? Ask a Lawyer

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between what the police are authorized to do in their official capacity and what crosses into misconduct. This is especially true since the actions of police will be judged in the context of each unique situation. If you feel that you or a loved one have been the victim of police misconduct in North Carolina, it's best to speak with a skilled civil rights attorney near you today.

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