A woman out of Travis county is bringing a lawsuit against the city of Austin, two of its police officers, and the county for excessive force. The alleged excessive force took place in conjunction with a DWI arrest from 2013. According to court papers, the woman is seeking compensation for damages she endured to her elbows and for the post traumatic stress she has suffered since.

In the actual DWI case, the woman was acquitted of all charges. Despite the fact she had her blood taken without her consent and it showed an intoxication level of .137, she was found not guilty. This was accomplished by top-notch lawyering and pointing out to the jury that the police mishandled evidence. Now, two years later, the case continues on, this time in the civil arena of the law.

At least one of the police officers involved in this instance is sharing a different side of the story. According to his reports, this woman was the most vile person he had ever come across in the jail. Now, think of that; the officer works in a profession where he deals with murderers, rapists, and child molesters all the time, and a young woman accused of DWI fits that description. It seems clear why the case was dismissed at the trial level.

Governmental Immunity

It is difficult to win a civil lawsuit against a police officer or department in Texas and most other states. Those who don the uniform and go out to protect the peace are themselves protected by a qualified immunity for the actions they take. This means that the interactions police have with the public are not judged in the same way that others are.

In a typical situation in which one citizen injures another, that person is liable for the damage caused. This is basic personal injury and negligence law. But the police and other government officials do not fit this basic mold of behavior because their jobs are different from most others.

When a police officer is accused of excessive force or negligence, he or she will be protected as long as three elements are fulfilled:

  • The duties being performed were discretionary;
  • The efforts were in good faith; and,
  • The officer was acting in the scope of his or her duties.

By showing these three elements, any government official can avoid liability for the damages he or she causes.

It is true that police officers and other government officials enjoy a different standard when dealing with the public. But it is also true that they are held to a different standard. For example, everything a police officer does and says when pulling someone over and beginning a DWI investigation is judged through the standards of the U.S. Constitution. If he or she violates any of those provisions, then the suspect stands to benefit and be made whole after having his or her constitutional rights violated.

If you are charged with DWI, your constitutional rights may have been violated. At The Wilder DWI Defense Firm we defend those rights and will help you understand what your rights and options are under the law. Contact us today.