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Double Exposure: Civil Liability and Criminal Prosecution in Federal Court for Police Misconduct

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 77 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 23-32
Richard G. Schott J.D.
Date Published
May 2008
10 pages
This article reviews the Federal Civil Cause of Action (Title 42 U.S.C. 1983) and the Federal Criminal Violation (Title 18 U.S. C. 242); providing familiarity with two Federal causes of action that law enforcement officers could find themselves encountering based on their actions.
All actions carry certain consequences. The law enforcement profession is fraught with dangerous consequences. Awareness is always taught, for example awareness of surroundings and danger signs. Awareness of the potential legal consequences of actions, especially in the area of police misconduct is also useful. This article discusses Federal civil actions against law enforcement officers and Federal criminal prosecution of those same law enforcement officers. The first, the Federal Civil Cause of Action: Title 42 U.S.C. 1983 is the basis for a civil lawsuit against individual law enforcement officers for violating someone’s rights granted to them by virtue of Federal law or the Constitution of the United States. The second, the Federal Criminal Violation: Title 18 U.S.C. 242 is the criminal companion to Title 42. Punishment imposed on those who engage in a violation of Title 18 includes monetary fines or, depending on the nature of the violation, a term of imprisonment up to life in prison or even a death sentence. Having an awareness of the legal bases for these consequences can make being the subject of one, or both, much less stressful for the officers. 66 endnotes