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Understanding your rights when the police use excessive force

You might be familiar with the term "police brutality" from movies and television shows, but the fact is, that is not an actual charge police officers who act beyond their training can face in South Carolina. While it might be different in other jurisdictions, the law in this state provides for remedies for the use of excessive force, but not for "brutality" per se. You might wonder what the difference is and why it is important, other than the fact that one term was chosen over another.

It is important because, under some circumstances, most citizens do expect the police to take extreme measures, especially if they perceive themselves to be protecting public safety. At the same time, though, there are definite boundaries to what is appropriate in a given situation, and it is an officer's responsibility to know the limits of acceptable force for that situation. It is, after all, what they are trained for. It's also important that officers be held accountable when their judgment takes them outside of their training because they are charged with the safety of all members of the public, including those they are attempting to question or to take into custody.

When is force excessive?

According to ABC News, there are over 12,000 complaints about the police using brutal tactics or excessive force each year, nationally. Since there is no objective standard for when force becomes excessive on a national scale, the judgment tends to be made after the fact, by weighing the consequences of the action against the situation and assessing whether the force was proportionate or not. Very often, this means a process of presenting evidence and building a case that is both contentious and difficult.

While investigating the prevalence of excessive force cases can be difficult because of these somewhat shifting definitions and situational rubrics for the use of force, it is clear from reports in the news and on social media that the police are using force more often and taking it to more extreme places than ever before. That makes it important for you to find the right legal help if you believe you have been the victim of excessive force by police officers.


Understanding your rights is only possible when you have legal advice that takes into account all the details of your case, which is why you need to talk to an attorney as soon as you are able if you believe you have a claim for the use of excessive force by police. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you whether your claim qualifies under the law as well as which steps to take next.

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