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Court Green Lights Man’s Allegations of Excessive Force in Drug Arrest

A federal appeals court ruled in September that an individual arrested connection with a drug bust has the right to pursue allegations that the arresting officers used excessive force against him. The arrest happened in 2008 when two local law enforcement agencies set up a sting operation to arrest drug dealers in Orlando.

According to court documents, the suspect met with undercover police officers at a gas station, where he allegedly sold them oxycodone, an illegal controlled substance. The suspect claims that the officers arrested him following the sale and used excessive force in carrying out the arrest, including slamming his face against the hot pavement after he had been handcuffed and was already on the ground. When the suspect tried to hold his face off the hot surface, officers apparently knocked his head to the ground, causing injuries to his teeth and jaw as well as serious damage to his left eardrum.

A lower court had thrown out the lawsuit and cited the officers’ “qualified immunity” as legal grounds to use such force. This doctrine is applied when officers must use force to control suspects who are uncooperative or potentially volatile. The suspect, however, appealed the decision, arguing that he was not uncooperative and his actions did not justify the officers’ use of force. The appeals court agreed that he did have grounds upon which to pursue the cause of action and reversed the dismissal and sent the case back down to the lower court.

When suspects are arrested on any charge, they still retain certain legal rights, including the right against unjustified force. Stay informed by meeting with a knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Salazar & Kelly in Orlando.

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