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Massachusetts Civil Rights Lawyer discusses Excessive force lawsuit in Buffalo

Police Brutality Lawsuit Filed Over Arrest Forceful Arrest by Buffalo Police 

Just one day into the new year, a young man in Buffalo suffered horrible injuries at the hands of a local police officer.  Tyshawn Vance, a 21-year-old, filed a lawsuit Monday in the state Supreme Court. He alleges that officers beat him so severely that he suffered permanent injuries such as vision loss. Allegedly, officers threw him to the ground and beat him during a traffic stop. The police officers allege that Vance was pulled over for speeding and having a license plate light out, hardly the infraction that would welcome violence. A video of the offense shows Vance’s eye swollen and blood smeared on the asphalt, U.S. News reports.

The police allege that Vance had a pistol and drugs, according to an article from a Buffalo local news station

The lawsuit contends that the officers inflicted pain that was unreasonable in response to the threat posed. The police officers filed charges including criminal possession of a weapon, drug charges related to possession of marijuana and crack cocaine, obstruction, and resisting arrest; the charges are still pending.  

The information on this case is still limited, and it is unclear whether the pending criminal charges or the brutality charge will be successful. For more information on police brutality and civil rights violations, visit Attorney DelSignore’s civil rights information page

How to file a police brutality claim

A violation of your civil rights can be filed as a federal lawsuit under a Statute referred to as a Section 1983 claim.  A Section 1983 claim is one where the offender is acting under the “color of law,” i.e., individuals who are empowered to act pursuant to their duties as governmental employees.  These are cases where governmental employees, most likely police officers, are the ones violating your Constitutional rights.  One of the most common cases brought under Section 1983 is racial profiling and police brutality.  In these cases, the officer does not care about the traffic violation or other minor infraction but wants to use it as a chance to search the car, hoping to find guns, drugs or other illegal.  When no evidence is revealed, the defendants are forcefully removed from the car pushed into the ground and beaten.  This is the type of excessive force, unwarranted under the law that can give rise to a civil rights violation under federal law.  Gutierrez-Rodriguez v. Cartagena, (1st Cir. 1989); Bastien v. Goddard, 279 F.3d 10 (1st Cir. 2002); Alexis v. McDonald’s Rests. of Mass. Inc., 67 F.3d 341 (1st. Cir. 1995).

Difference between a State and Federal claim

The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act is state court remedy for civil rights violations.  The MCRA was is the state equivalent of  Section 1983 and interpretations of terms and ambiguities in the federal law should be applied to the MCRA.  In Duarte v. Healy, the Supreme Judicial Court moved forward the view that Section 1983 case law should apply to the MCRA.  Duarte v. Healy, 405 Mass. 43 (1989).

However, federal civil rights claim under Section 1983 have some differences compared to claims under MCRA.  Under Section 1983, the defendant must have acted “under color of the law,” whereas under the MCRA, there is no color of law requirement.  Batchelder v. Allied Stores Corp., 393 Mass. 819, 821 (1985).  A second difference is that Section 1983 provides a remedy for a direct violation of civil rights, whereas under Section 11I, there must be an interference with civil rights by threats, intimidation, or coercion.  Sena v. Commonwealth, 417 Mass. 250, 262 (1994).  Finally, Section 1983 allows punitive damages, whereas Section 11I does not.  Gardner v. Governor Apartments Assocs., 396 Mass. 661, 663 n.2 (1986).  These are three reasons why a civil rights violation is usually better off brought under Section 1983 as opposed to the Massachusetts’s counterpart.

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