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What Does New York City’s Limits on Qualified Immunity for Police Mean for Future Lawsuits?

Following the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with protests against police brutality throughout the United States, the New York City Council passed a bill imposing limits on qualified immunity, a dated doctrine that has provided legal protection to police officers charged with misconduct. Here’s how this new legislation could impact the future of lawsuits filed against police officers throughout the five boroughs.

Qualified Immunity Explained

A parked police car

Quality immunity has a longstanding reputation of shielding police officers from liability when it comes to excessive force or unreasonable search and seizure. Even in instances of unlawful arrests, it was often difficult for victims of police misconduct to pursue legal action because of the protections afforded to officers.

New York City Police Misconduct by the Numbers

New York City has paid out over $1 billion in damages related to police misconduct cases since 2015. According to a report by the Marshall Project and FiveThirtyEight, the city spends around $170 million annually on police misconduct settlements. Despite sizeable payouts from the city each year, qualified immunity was granted in about 100 of the 180 police misconduct lawsuits that were filed in the past three years.

Clearer Pathways to Justice for Police Brutality Lawsuits

The new limits on qualified immunity open new legal avenues for citizens who are currently pursuing police brutality lawsuits in New York City: however, it’s important to note what these restrictions cover. New York City is only limiting qualified immunity in cases of unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as excessive force. Racial profiling accusations aren’t included under the new law, and it only applies to the NYPD but not other government officials.

Leav & Steinberg Can Represent You

The police brutality lawyers at Leav & Steinberg LLP can help you navigate your legal options in pursuing a police misconduct lawsuit. Our multilingual staff is prepared to help residents or visitors in New York City seek justice and receive compensation for their injuries following an incident of police brutality. To speak with an attorney about your case, request a free consultation today.