Off Duty Police Officer Abuse of Power?
While trying to avoid a deer that ran in front of my car I swerved and hit several parked cars. An off-duty police officer who exited a bar pulled me from the car, handcuff me and threw me to the ground, then told me to shut up while waiting an hour for state police to arrive. His car is one which was hit.
Is it legal for an off-duty police officer to grab you and pull you from a car like this? What can I do about it?
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ANSWER for "Off Duty Police Officer Abuse of Power?":
Marlyn (Quakertown, PA):
In 1980, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted what is commonly known as the Dragonetti Act. The primary purpose of the Dragonetti Act was to prohibit individuals from filing frivolous lawsuits against others, usually with baseless or fabricated allegations.
The act also prohibits the abuse of process or authority by law enforcement officials from using their authority to harass, arrest, or seize property from individuals based on reasons not legally appropriate.
From the facts you present we are unable to know if after you were handcuffed and thrown to the ground you were arrested, and if so, for what. Being handcuffed is not the same as being arrested, although it can be.
Without getting into the legal subtleties which differentiate arrest from detention, we can tell you there is a difference between being arrested and detained.
In your case if you were not placed under arrest for the investigation of a suspected crime, and were merely detained because the police officer suspected you may have committed a crime, he may not have abused his authority.
If though you were not arrested, and the police officer had no “reasonable suspicion” or actual knowledge you had committed a crime, he certainly could be accused of “Abuse of Process”.
The main issue is whether when the police officer pulled you from the car, threw you to the ground, and told you to shut up he wrongfully abused his authority. The answer depends on the issues discussed above.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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