Excessive Force by Law Enforcement is Illegal in California

California has some of the nation's strictest legislation regarding excessive force used by law enforcement. Although training in de-escalation and alternative non-violent force is not mandated throughout the state, Newsom’s efforts are shaping policy discussions around police violence. Defense attorneys recognize that although California is making strides in this area, police and other law enforcement may still be crossing the line when making arrests. If excessive force is used, it directly violates Assembly Bill 392: The California Act to Save Lives. Only an excellent criminal defense attorney can provide clients with a strong defense if this occurs.

California Leads the Nation in Excessive Force Legislation

In 2019, Governor Newsom signed legislation that changed the standards for police officers regarding the use of deadly force. Remaining the nation’s leader, California has updated legislation as recently as 2020 to evolve the existing policy further to protect people from excessive law enforcement violence. California has reported dramatically reduced numbers of excessive force without an increase in officer injury or death. This means that the legislation against deadly force appears to be working and not reducing the effectiveness of law enforcement’s efforts.

Realistically, since the training offered to law enforcement is optional in most districts, excessive force incidents are still occurring. If you feel you were treated with excessive force by an officer, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Part of serving as an excellent criminal defense attorney is looking at every detail of a case and ensuring that law enforcement is acting within the law. Having taken an oath to serve and protect, officers must honor the laws against excessive force with all citizens, including those facing arrest for a crime.

How Much Force is Necessary?

Since George Floyd, Americans have taken a more active role in speaking out against police violence and what seemed to be the unregulated use of excessive force. Many Americans are still concerned with the carte blanche approach of some working in law enforcement. The concern is that authorities may have too much freedom regarding the necessary force. Deadly Force laws that exist are showing beneficial to citizens and officers. Those who serve in law enforcement sign an oath to protect and serve, and the use of excessive force, although not in the headlines today, is still a significant concern for many. The laws have changed in California so that police can only use deadly force when there is a clear and imminent threat of bodily harm or death. As expected, this interpretation can be broad, so there are still issues around the amount of force used and what is warranted. Every scenario is unique and deserves a detailed look at the events and how officers handled each arrest.

Deadly Force as a Last Resort

In parts of California, the police and law enforcement have been re-trained to use deadly force only as a last resort. As part of the Deadly Force Law, training included de-escalation tactics and alternative ways to handle scenarios without deadly force. The law and compliance by California’s police departments continue to result in fewer assaults and killings of police officers. Instead, officers are trained to use the least amount of force to take control of a situation. Police and law enforcement officers are provided with de-escalation and non-lethal tactics to use first. Tasers, other equipment, and body holds should be used instead of chokeholds. What may be surprising is that long before George Floyd’s case, chokeholds were illegal.

Are Firearms Always Necessary?

Police are trained to use firearms only in life-threatening situations. In many scenarios, a gun is not necessary. The goal of the limitations of force legislation is not to make police more vulnerable but to ensure each situation is approached uniquely. Officers are encouraged to allow crime scenes to unfold naturally and make sound decisions at each stage as the situation unravels. Contrary to what many see as weakening, the training builds a more effective and purposeful police force.

After the law took effect in San Francisco, reports of excessive force came down by more than one-third within a year. In line with that reduction was the lower number of times police pointed a firearm at suspects. Statistics also indicate that using reasonable force has not led to more officer injuries. Those completing the training offered by the state quickly realize they are as effective in their critical roles using less force.

Unless training continues and is mandated across the state, California may never realize the full potential and benefits this legislation offers the citizens and law enforcement. If you have been a victim of excessive force, please get in touch with Joni Eisenstein. Attorney Eisenstein has more than 29 years of experience policing the police in San Diego County. An expert in the law and its interpretations, she has helped countless clients fight charges based on the arresting officers' actions. Please get in touch with the Law Offices of Joni Eisenstein for a free consultation and ensure your rights have not been violated.

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