People who have experienced or witnessed police misconduct have various recourses in Nevada. These include filing a criminal complaint, filing a civil complaint, and filing a police misconduct report.
This page explains how people who have been denied their civil rights by police misconduct in Nevada can seek help. Specifically, this article discusses the following topics:
(Click on a link to go directly to the subject)
3. Civil Rights Violations and Civil Torts in Las Vegas, NV: How can a victim get money for police misconduct?
4. Filing a Misconduct Report in Las Vegas, NV: How can an officer get disciplined for police misconduct?
1. Police Misconduct in Las Vegas, Nevada: What is police misconduct?
Like it sounds, police misconduct in Nevada is whenever law enforcement oversteps its bounds, violates rules or breaks the law. Police misconduct may happen anywhere such as in a courthouse, a jail, a police station, a home, and out on the street. Typical scenarios include:
- using excessive physical force (Examples are beatings, unreasonable restraint use, sexual assault, and improper use of guns, tasers, pepper spray, batons, police dogs and other weapons.)
- coercing confessions
- performing an illegal strip search or a false arrest
- fabricating, planting, or tampering with evidence
- lying on the witness stand (perjury)
- practicing discrimination, intimidation or corruption
Police misconduct happens for a variety of reasons: Poor training, poor judgment, laziness, sloppiness, pressure to get convictions, racism, sexism, or cruelty. Sometimes it is done by mistake. Other times it is intentional. Either way, many police practice a "code of silence" where they refuse to snitch on their fellow officers as part of a "protect our own" mentality.
Therefore, anyone who may have been victim to or witnessed police misconduct in Las Vegas should write down what happened right away and in detail. This prevents important facts from being forgotten, which would weaken their case against the police. Ideally the specifics should include the following:
- the police officer's badge number
- any witnesses to the misconduct
- an in-depth narrative of exactly what happened when and where, including direct quotations
- hospital records (if the misconduct included physical abuse)
- photographs or video recording of the abuse or its aftermath
Whenever someone may have been a victim of police misconduct in Nevada, it is important they seek legal counsel to help them decide how best to proceed. An attorney should help them not only to maximize their chances of receiving compensation but also to safeguard their civil rights.
It is possible, depending on the circumstances. If the police misbehaved to such an extent that their actions may qualify as criminal, then the victim may file a criminal complaint with the local district attorney's office. The D.A. would then decide whether to investigate and prosecute the matter. Typical offenses cops may be charged with include:
- Nevada crime of battery with a deadly weapon (NRS 200.481)
- Nevada crime of perjury, such as giving false information in a police report or lying on the witness stand (NRS 199.145)
- Nevada crime of extortion of confession (NRS 199.460)
- Nevada crime of malicious prosecution (NRS 199.310)
- Nevada crime of falsifying evidence (NRS 199.220)
- Nevada crime of offering false evidence (NRS 199.210)
- The Nevada crime of a peace officer exceeding authority in execution of a search warrant (NRS 199.450)
If the cop pleads guilty or is found guilty, he/she may face prison, fines and termination from his/her law enforcement job. Note that in a criminal case, the victim would not be a "party" to the case—only the officer and the state of Nevada would be litigating against each other. Instead the victim could serve as a witness and otherwise help the state with its case against the accused officer.
3. Civil Rights Violations and Civil Torts in Las Vegas, Nevada: How can a victim get money for police misconduct?
A victim may try to recover compensation for alleged police misconduct by bringing a civil lawsuit against the individual officer(s) and/or the entire police agency such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Victims typically pursue one or both of the following causes of actions:
- constitutional claims
- civil tort claims
Constitutional claims in Las Vegas, Nevada: Section 1983 Claims
The United States Constitution spells out various fundamental rights American citizens share that may not be compromised without just cause. Two frequently litigated constitutional issues in police misconduct cases are:
- The Fourth Amendment right of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. A violation occurs if the police conduct an illegal search by defying proper warrant procedures.
- The Eighth Amendment right of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. A violation occurs if the police subject the victim to unreasonable pain or torment while incarcerated.
Section 1983 of the United States Code offers victims a way to sue people who have seriously harmed them while acting under the "color of state law." In order to prevail on a Section 1983 claim, the victim has to show all of the following:
- One of the victim's constitutional rights was violated,
- The violation was perpetrated by someone acting under color of law (such as a police officer), and
- The state agent who committed the violation was not immune from liability
Note that if the police officer was a federal employee as opposed to a state or city officer, the victim would bring a suit similar to a Section 1983 claim called a "Bivens claim."
Civil Tort Claims
A tort is a wrong that one person commits against someone else. Torts are similar to crimes except that crimes are prosecuted by the state against the alleged criminal, whereas torts are prosecuted by individual persons against each other. Furthermore, only crimes-not torts-may carry prison time as a punishment. Common torts that victims sue law enforcement for include:
- wrongful death
- false imprisonment
- false arrest
If a cop or police agency is found liable under constitutional or tort claims, the court may then order them to pay compensation (or "damages") to the victim to help make up for the harm they suffered. Victims may also have the satisfaction of seeing the people who have wrong them held accountable for their misconduct and abuse of power.
4. Filing a Misconduct Report in Las Vegas, Nevada: How can an officer get disciplined for police misconduct?
Victims should consult with an attorney to help guide them through filing a police misconduct report in Nevada. There are many rules to follow, and any missteps may compromise its chances of success.
Note that filing a misconduct complaint is not the same as filing a criminal or civil complaint. The most a misconduct complaint can do is cause the Review Board to issue reports and recommendations to the sheriff, who then decides whether to take action and discipline the police.
How to file a police misconduct report in Las Vegas, Nevada
Victims or witnesses to police misconduct in Las Vegas may file a complaint with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Citizen Review Board. The Review Board retains jurisdiction over any misconduct allegations such as:
- excessive use of force
- false reporting
- false arrest
- illegal search or seizure
- improper use of firearms
- discrimination and harassment
If the board believes the complaint is credible, they will forward it to Metro's Internal Affair's Division for an investigation. There are four ways to contact the Citizen Review Board in Las Vegas:
- In Person: Go to the Citizen Review Board's Office at 310 South 3rd Street, Ste. 319, Las Vegas, NV 89101 anytime on Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM to fill out a complaint.
- By Internet: Go to http://www.citizenreviewboard.com and click on the link at the bottom of the page. Then print out the complaint form, fill it out and mail it to the above address.
- By Phone: Call the Citizen Review Board at (702) 455-6322. They can give you instructions on how to fill out a complaint.
- By E-mail: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions or express concerns to the Citizen Review Board.
Note that misconduct reports must be filed within one year of the incident. But the time is tolled if there is an ongoing criminal investigation related to the matter. It is often best to wait until after all criminal and civil cases have been resolved so the victim does not reveal any potentially self-incriminating information. An attorney can help determine when a victim should file a report.
Depending on the case, an attorney may suggest that a victim sends copies of the misconduct complaint to the local ACLU and NAACP chapters. They may decide to use the case to bring attention to issues of police misconduct.
Call us for help . . . .
If you may have been a victim of police misconduct, contact Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. They may be able to help you recover damages, bring the abusers to justice, and help institute positive changes in the criminal justice system.
For more information go to our articles on tasers, Nevada crime of battery with a deadly weapon and Nevada crime of malicious prosecution. To learn about help for California victims of police misconduct and civil rights violations, go to our page on help for California victims of police misconduct and civil rights violations.