The civil rights laws in the U.S. offer you protection from governmental abuse. They also serve to limit the actions of police officers in order to protect you from police misconduct. 

Because these laws are not always easy to understand, you may question whether you can validly bring certain claims against police officers. 

Claiming false arrest or imprisonment 

One type of claim that people often issue concerns false arrest or imprisonment. An arrest occurs when the police detain you in connection with a crime, and imprisonment begins when the officer takes you into custody. 

A claim of false arrest asserts a violation of your right to be free of unreasonable seizure. To prove this type of claim, you must show that a willful detention existed and that it occurred unlawfully and without consent. 

If someone detains you based on your appearance for an unreasonable time period, you would have a valid claim. Alternatively, if someone saw you steal an item, and therefore detained you for questioning for a reasonable amount of time, your claim would not be valid. 

Claiming malicious prosecution 

Another type of commonly issued claim is malicious prosecution. Proving such a claim requires that you demonstrate that the police acted with malicious intent and without probable cause. As well, the proceeding must not have ended in a conviction. 

An officer who issues a search warrant despite lacking probable cause could invite an accusation of malicious prosecution. In addition, malicious prosecution would exist if an officer charged you with a crime with the purpose of concealing the fact that police misconduct had occurred. 

Claiming the use of excessive force 

Yet another type of claim that you may bring regards the use of excessive force. Legally, the amount of force the police use must be reasonable in light of the situation. 

Using physical force instead of beginning with verbal commands constitutes excessive force. In addition, if an officer witnesses another officer using excessive force and allows this violation of rights to continue, he or she could be liable for not intervening on your behalf. Knowing your rights helps prepare you to identify and address any violations.