A popular topic of conversation of late is qualified immunity and how it impacts police officers. There are many misconceptions about what this actually means and how it can help people who believe that they have had their rights violated by the police. Furthermore, every state, including New Jersey, has different laws surrounding the topic.
What does qualified immunity mean?
Qualified immunity makes it much harder to sue a governmental officer for exercising his or her official duties. It is not a blanket immunity, and there are times in which a governmental employee can be sued, such as for gross and obvious violations of the law. However, it does make it harder to sue someone in his or her personal capacity. Moreover, it can make it more difficult to hold a police officer personally responsible when there is an instance of police brutality.
Can I still seek damages if my rights are violated by the police?
There have been quite a few conversations about qualified immunity in terms of its impact on cases involving police brutality. However, to be clear, qualified immunity simply means that a police officer can, generally speaking, avoid criminal charges for reasonable conduct on the job. It does not mean that he or she can always escape civil penalties. It also certainly does not mean that the jurisdiction for which an officer works can avoid lawsuits or other penalties if a variety of other relevant legal metrics are met.
Qualified immunity is unquestionably a complicated topic and one that has overarching political and societal implications. For questions on how qualified immunity may impact an incident of police brutality that you have experienced, you should contact an attorney. He or she can inform you of your rights and help you determine potential next steps.