Can I sue the police?

Qualified Immunity and Civil Rights in New Mexico

Sometimes, those who are sworn to uphold the law fall short of that oath to the community, and the only way to hold the authorities accountable is to file a lawsuit. 

Fortunately, New Mexico passed the Civil Rights Act in April of 2021, which removes the controversial doctrine of qualified immunity, which historically has shielded the police and other government officials from accountability for civil rights violations.

However, civil rights violations by law enforcement and correctional facilities remain a persistent concern in today’s society. Understanding these violations is crucial for fostering accountability and advocating for justice. Here, we explore some of the most prevalent types of civil rights violations perpetrated by police and within jails or prisons.

Excessive Use of Force

Perhaps the most widely recognized civil rights violation, excessive use of force occurs when law enforcement employs more force than is deemed reasonable. This can lead to severe injuries or even death, particularly when disproportionate force is used against unarmed or non-threatening individuals. Within correctional facilities, excessive force can manifest as physical abuse by staff against inmates. Such actions violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In New Mexico, the government is responsible for adequately training and supervising its officers so that they use non-lethal force whenever possible and to only use force that is proportional to the safety risk at hand.

False Arrests and Wrongful Detentions

Police: Individuals have the right to be free from unlawful arrests. False arrests occur when law enforcement lacks probable cause or proper legal justification. Wrongful detentions involve unlawfully prolonging an individual’s detention without legal basis. Individuals in custody maintain the right to due process. Wrongful detentions can occur within correctional facilities when individuals are held beyond their lawful release date without proper justification.

Unlawful Searches and Seizures

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Violations occur when law enforcement conducts searches without a warrant, probable cause, or consent. In correctional settings, unlawful searches may involve invasive procedures or searches conducted without proper justification, infringing upon an individual’s right to privacy.

Violations of the Due Process Clause in the context of failure to protect detainees refer to instances where individuals in custody are subjected to harm, danger, or inadequate care, and their constitutional right to due process is compromised. The Due Process Clause, found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, ensures that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Failure to Protect

In the context of detainees, due process violations may occur when authorities fail to take reasonable steps to protect individuals in their custody, leading to foreseeable harm or danger. Here are some key aspects of how this violation may manifest:

Authorities are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals in their custody. Failure to implement adequate safety measures, such as proper security protocols, supervision, or the separation of detainees when necessary, can result in preventable harm. If authorities are aware of specific risks or threats to a detainee’s safety and fail to take reasonable steps to address those risks, it can constitute a violation of due process. This may include ignoring known threats from other detainees or staff members.

In some instances, police may deny individuals access to necessary medical care, violating their right to adequate health services. In correctional facilities, the denial of proper medical care can lead to severe health consequences for detainees or inmates. This violates either the Due Process Clause or the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Law enforcement and correctional personnel must be adequately trained to handle the responsibilities associated with the care and custody of individuals. Failure to provide proper training or supervision that leads to harm can be considered a failure to uphold due process.

Indifference or deliberate indifference to substantial risks to the safety of detainees is a key element in establishing a due process violation. If authorities are aware of risks but exhibit deliberate disregard for the well-being of those in their custody, it may constitute a breach of due process. Authorities have a duty to investigate and address complaints from detainees regarding their safety or well-being. Ignoring or dismissing valid complaints without proper investigation may contribute to a due process violation. The conditions of confinement must be humane and meet basic standards. Inadequate facilities, overcrowding, or failure to provide essential services can infringe on the due process rights of detainees.

Seeking Justice for Civil Rights Violations? We Can Help! 

Have your civil rights been violated? At Prince, Schmidt, Baca & Woods, LLP, we’re here to be your advocates, champions, and experienced legal allies in the pursuit of justice. Our team of dedicated attorneys specializes in civil rights law, passionately committed to ensuring that victims of violations receive the compensation they rightfully deserve.

Related Posts