Excessive Force Against Minors: What to Know 

 November 17, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

Excessive force by police officers has been the topic of many recent news stories, and most of the cases involve excessive force against adults. Arresting an adult, however, is different from arresting a minor. After video of a South Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy throwing a student to the floor went viral, many had questions about the penalties for excessive force against a juvenile. Although a minor can be handcuffed, fingerprinted and photographed, there are other requirements police must follow when placing children under arrest.

Notifying Parents

In most states, police officers must notify parents immediately after taking the minor into custody. Although they can place the juvenile under arrest before the parents arrive, they may not be permitted to question the minor until his parents are present or until the parents provide a lawyer to advise the child. Also, states often have laws that require the police to file charges against a juvenile more quickly than they must with an adult. If the time to file charges passes, the courts may order the juvenile released.

What Qualifies as Excessive Force?

Although failure to officially arrest a juvenile in time, or questioning them without their parent or lawyer present, may be unethical and illegal, it may not constitute excessive force. Excessive force is not always clear. Most courts consider excessive force to be any physical force that exceeds what a reasonable law enforcement official would use under the circumstances. When a police officer or other person of authority uses excessive force on a minor, they may be liable for criminal charges.

Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights

When an officer uses excessive force against a minor, they have violated the juvenile’s Fourth Amendment Rights. This means that a lawsuit may be filed in federal court, rather than state court. Police are required to use reasonable methods of restraint during an arrest. Therefore, anyone who is claiming excessive force, whether they are children or adults, would need to demonstrate how the force used is not what any reasonable law enforcement officer in similar circumstances would have used. For example, if the juvenile was fleeing or resisting the officer, the officer may be justified in using a greater degree of force. If the victim can show that the amount of force was not reasonable, they may prevail in a civil lawsuit.

Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins for Legal Representation

If you or a loved one has been the victim of excessive force as an adult or a juvenile, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. today to learn what rights you may have. You can contact them online for more information on how to recover losses you may have suffered.