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Massachusetts Civil Rights Lawyer

At DelSignore Law, we can help people who have their civil rights violated by filing a civil suit against the police department and town or municipality involved with the violation.

What is a Civil Rights Violation?

A civil rights violation can include an arrest without probable cause. Civil rights violations also include cases of police brutality. A common situation we hear about DelSignore Law is a client being profiled and stopped based on their race. The officer does not care about the traffic violation but wants to use it as a chance to search the car, hoping to find guns or drugs. 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 Massachusetts law and federal law.

How do Civil Rights Claims get Heard in Court?

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 you are alleging that a governmental official violated your Constitutional rights. Most Section 1983 claims will involve a Fourth Amendment claim that you were subject to unreasonable search and seizure in violation of your rights by arresting you without probable cause or using excessive force in the arrest.

Damages in 1983 Case

You can recover monetary damages from a 1983 claim. Some decisions in the following cases show what type of damages you can recover. These amounts vary depending on the facts of the crime and the jury. Reported case from Massachusetts have involved verdicts over 100,000 for false arrest, excessive force and abuse of process.

Excessive Force While in the House of Corrections: Verdict Against Bristol County House of Corrections

The Bristol County House of Corrections has a reputation of poor treatment of inmates. In one case from the Bristol County House of Correction, an award of $75,000 in punitive damages against each defendant and compensatory damages of $50,000. The defendant was also awarded attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $55,841.89. The plaintiff suffered a broken jaw after being beaten by correctional officers. He also brought suit against the prison nurses for showing indifference to his medical needs. The case resulted in this verdict was Perry v. Roy, and was heard in the Massachusetts Federal District Court.

A plaintiff who was subjected to unlawful arrest was awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages and $35,000 in punitive damages. Mendez-Matos v. Guaynabo, 557 F.3d 36 (1st Cir. 2009). Other examples include $160,000 to arrestee for minor physical injuries and substantial mental and emotional harm resulting from racially motivated false arrest and false imprisonment. Hall v. Ochs, 817 F.2d 920 (1st Cir. 1987), and $235,000 to a citizen who was falsely arrested and unlawfully committed to a mental institution. Wagenmann v Adams 829 F.2d 196 (1st Cir. 1987), and $1 million in punitive damages as well as $30,000 for compensatory damages to a plaintiff who was subjected to excessive force by a police officer. Casillas-Diaz v. Palau, 463 F.3d 77 (1st Cir. 2006). Finally, in a particularly serious case, $2 million was awarded to a victim who was shot twice by a police officer in the back of the left leg and sustained a 48 percent impairment of his left lower extremity and a 19 percent impairment of his entire body. Whitfield v. Melendez-Rivera, 431 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2005).

How do you sue for a Civil Rights Violation in Massachusetts?

Section 1983 is a federal civil rights statute, but Massachusetts has the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, which is another outlet for civil rights violations. There are some differences between the two. 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 main reasons why a civil rights violation is usually better brought under Section 1983 as opposed to the state's counterpart.

What is Under the Color of State Law

Under the Color of State Law means that the individual committing the civil rights violation must be working in their professional capacity at the time. In other words, if the claim is brought against a police officer, the officer must be working at the time of the alleged deprivation of your civil rights. If you get into a fight with a police officer who happens to be your neighbor, the incident would not be a civil rights violation because at the time he was not acting under the Color of State Law. Under the Color of State law, basically means that the person violating your civil rights must be working in their capacity as a state or federal employee at the time of the violation.

Police Shootings

Police officers are not permitted to use deadly force to apprehend a non-violent defendant even if committing a crime. This means that the police are never justified in using excessive force under Section 1983 against someone who was not committing a crime or committing a non-violent crime.

In the case of Tennessee v. Gardner, the United States Supreme Court held that under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless "the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.” It was found that use of deadly force to prevent escape is an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, in the absence of probable cause that the fleeing suspect posed a physical danger.

A year-long investigation of fatal police shootings in 2015 found that settlements for police rated fatalities ranged from $7,500 to $8.5 million, with a median settlement amount of $1.2 million. The investigation also concluded that families collected substantially more money by settling before trial; that families settling after a criminal trial received $500,000 on average; and that suits against individual officers were exceedingly rare.

If you find yourself the victim of police brutality, believe that your civil rights were violated, call or text DelSignore Law at 781-686-5924. We are here to help. Attorney DelSignore’s goal is to help change society and make it a better place through his hard work as a lawyer and through the hard work of everyone at DelSignore Law. Let us help you.

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Michael was very professional and explained the process clearly and told us to be patient. After one year the charges got dismissed in the trial. Excellent knowledge of the court systems in the area of Boston. Would highly recommend him Ashwani
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A careless decision on my part left me facing charges which would have severely hampered my ability to stay employed and support myself. But attorney DelSignore's skillful analysis and challenging of the evidence against me resulted in a conviction on a lesser charge. Now I'll be able to go on with my life, having learned a lesson I'll never forget. Thank you, Michael. Scott
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Mike stuck with my case for 3.5 years and always kept me informed regarding the status. Ultimately, because of his due diligence, we ended up with an OUI not guilty verdict. This case could have gone many ways but his thorough review of the case and exceptional preparedness for trial ultimately drove a positive outcome. Thank you Mike! David
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Michael DelSignore did an amazing job with my case! Either him or his partner Julie was always available to answer any questions I had and helped walked me through the entire process. I could not have done it without them! I highly recommend choosing this law firm to deal with your legal needs, you will not be dissatisfied. Ashley
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I cannot express the gratitude towards both Michael and Julie for their amazing work and help. It was a very stressful event and they certainly put me at as much ease as possible. From start to finish it took 14 months and all the way through they were both very engaged with me. Today was worth the wait, Michael was great in court and I was rightfully found not guilty. I would recommend Michael and Julie over and over again. Claire