Personal Injury Blog

Civil Lawsuits & Justice After Police Shootings

By: Matthew Tievsky

It is too early to know exactly what happened in the shootings of Philando Castille in Minnesota, and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, in the days following July 4th. However, their deaths call attention to the role that civil lawsuits play in ensuring justice after police actions.

Police can be criminally prosecuted after misconduct, but as events over the last few years have shown, it can be difficult to indict – much less convict – a police officer of wrongfully shooting someone. Part of the difficulty is that a criminal prosecution requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime.

However, civil lawsuits also play a valuable role in police shootings. A civil lawsuit cannot put a police officer behind bars, but it can ensure that the government that empowers the police officer is held responsible, by forcing the government to compensate the victim of the police brutality. A civil lawsuit has a major advantage over a criminal prosecution, because the person who brings the lawsuit only needs to prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence (which means showing that the police officer was probably at fault) rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

It remains to be seen for certain whether Mr. Castille, Mr. Sterling, or both, were wrongfully killed by the police. However, if the evidence shows that either man was probably wrongfully killed by the police – even if the evidence is not strong enough to prevent reasonable doubt – then a civil lawsuit by the family of the victim will play an important role in ensuring that some justice is obtained.

If you have been injured by police misconduct, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., for a free consultation.