An arrest is a frightening experience under normal circumstances. When you have suspicions that the police overstepped their boundaries, the situation becomes even more complex. How can you be sure the law is on your side? How can you protect your rights if they have been violated? If you are unsure whether the police acted in accordance with the law, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why did they pull you over? Police must have reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop. If they pulled you over for no reason at all, or you suspect the stop was because of your race or other protected characteristic, the police overstepped.
- Did they deny you your rights? Criminal suspects have strong rights under the U.S. constitution. Included among those rights are the right to counsel and the right against self incrimination. This means you are allowed to have an attorney present when you are questioned and you have no obligation to make statements that may compromise your case. It is important to know and assert those rights so you can take full advantage of their protections in the event of a criminal arrest. If you have asserted your rights and police did not respect them, they have overstepped.
- Were you assaulted or falsely imprisoned? Police have the authority to use force when necessary, but excessive and unnecessary force rise to the level of police brutality and are against the law. If you were beaten, sexually assaulted or otherwise abused by police, they overstepped.
Laws regarding police abuses of power are in flux, especially in Illinois where the Police and Criminal Justice Reform Bill was recently signed into law. While such laws are designed to protect our citizens, we still need strong advocates to test the new statutes in courtrooms in Chicago and throughout the state. If police have violated your rights, speak with a civil rights attorney who keeps abreast of all changes in the law and can provide you with the strong legal advocacy such a dire situation requires.