Visitor Question

Can I sue if the police say it was my fault?

Submitted By: Patty (West Lancaster, CA)

I recently moved into a cul-de-sac neighborhood. There are a lot of kids between the ages of 2 and 12 yrs old, which are also the ages my kids fall into.

I’d been outside watching my 2 yr old play with another girl her age when I had to use the bathroom. I asked my sister to watch my child while I went inside. The next thing I know my neighbor is bringing my daughter inside crying. He told me the other neighbor hit her. When the cops came they said it’s my fault for not watching her. I mean, things happened so fast!

What should I do?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Patty,


When it comes to the Police, there is very little which can be done. In the United States our State and Federal police have what is called “Sovereign Immunity.”

Sovereign immunity is defined as “a legal doctrine by which the state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution”.

Let us explain with an example…

The Police responded to a domestic disturbance. The husband was intoxicated and when the police told him to sit down he lunged at one of the officers. Another officer thought he saw a knife in the man’s hand and reacted by discharging her weapon.

The man subsequently died. It later turned out the man only had a cell phone in his hand. The man’s wife wanted to sue the police. She was prohibited by Sovereign Immunity. If the police officer who discharged her weapon had to worry about being sued, she might have hesitated for an instant before firing. If she had hesitated and the man really had a knife the man might have plunged it into her partner.

If you are still convinced the Police Officer over reacted, you may call the Internal Affairs Department and file a complaint.

Although the foregoing was an extreme case of the application of Sovereign Immunity, it follows even to less serious matters, including the scenario in which you were admonished by the officer for leaving your child unattended. You believe the police officer over reacted. So did the wife of the man who the officer had to put down.

The question is where does Sovereign Immunity begin, and where should it end?

That question has been has been argued for many years, and will continue to be argued for many more.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: August 8, 2011

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