An amended state law has made it easier for victims of police brutality and other civil rights violations in California to recover money damages from public entities and their employees. The law now prevents officials from using the immunity provisions of the state Government Code as defenses to civil rights lawsuits.  

Since 1988, the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (the Bane Act) has protected people in California from behavior by another person that “interferes by threat, intimidation, or coercion, or attempts to interfere by threat, intimidation, or coercion” with the person’s rights under the laws or constitution of the state or federal government. An individual who believes their civil or constitutional rights have been violated by a police officer or other government official may bring a lawsuit seeking civil damages and other relief, such as an injunction.

Unfortunately, the Bane Act did not help individuals much in suits against police officers and other public employees such as prison guards and parole officers. These officials are granted certain immunities under the state Government Code, protecting them from liability for injuries resulting from actions taken in the course of official duties. For decades, many Bane Act cases filed by civilians against police officers for alleged unreasonable use of force have been dismissed.

But Senate Bill No. 2, which came into effect on January 1, 2022, precludes police officers from using certain immunities as defenses. Some lawsuits that plaintiffs now have a greater chance of winning under the amended Bane Act include those alleging the following:

  • Assault of prisoners — Police officers and other state actors that used to have immunity against claims of undue force against prisoners can now be held liable for damages.
  • Failure to obtain medical care for a prisoner — Correctional officers and other state actors now do not have immunity against a plaintiff’s claims that the officer knew, or should have known, that the prisoner needed medical attention and was denied it.
  • False arrest or malicious prosecution — Police may not detain an individual without probable cause and may not prosecute with malicious intent. They no longer can raise an immunity defense if they are sued for these rights violations.

If you believe a California police officer has violated your civil rights, contact the Roseville, California firm of Strategic Law Command. We can help you understand your options to recover damages for the violation and how the new law affects the defendant’s ability to claim qualified immunity. Schedule a consultation today by calling 916-787-1234 or contacting us online.