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Charges Dismissed Against Charlotte-Based Couple in Viral Video

On November 13, two people who appeared to be smoking marijuana were arrested by Charlotte police. The couple’s attorney stated that they were smoking a legal substance that they purchased nearby. After the video went viral, social media users pointed out that the Mecklenburg County district attorney typically does not even prosecute arrests made for marijuana. The video clip went viral, likely because several Charlotte police officers were holding one of the suspects down while the other officer appeared to hit her several times.

Recently, it has been reported that all charges were dismissed against the woman who was struck by the officer while being arrested. The District Attorney's office has declined to comment on the dismissal. In the dismissal, the District Attorney's Office considered body-worn camera evidence and various recorded statements by civilian and police witnesses. They said they also considered the totality of their circumstances and decided that the state did not have a reasonable likelihood of success by trying the defendants.

How Much Force Can Police Officers Use During an Arrest?

Many social media users who viewed the video of the arrest were quick to point out that they thought the police officer making the arrest used excessive force. Some have speculated that the District Attorney's office dismissed the charges against the suspects because of the outrage over the seemingly unnecessarily violent arrest. How much force are police officers allowed to use when arresting a suspect?

Generally, officers can use reasonable force to take a person into custody. For example, if a suspect resists the officer by momentarily running away or giving a push that is not seriously harmful, the police officer likely would not be justified in using extreme force. If police officers use unnecessary force, it can be considered police brutality, which is a violation of the Constitution.

Victims of police brutality have a right to pursue compensation through a civil lawsuit against the police officer, the police department, and any other responsible party. Courts decide whether the police officer's use of force was unreasonable on a case-by-case basis. They will consider whether the suspect posed a threat, the severity of the crime for which the defendant is being arrested, and whether the suspect attempted to flee or resist arrest when the force was used.

There is a history of police officers using too much force, and the prevalence of cell phones and other recording devices has resulted in civilians recording interactions between police officers and those they are arresting. Violent arrests can go viral, and some have even caused significant protests.

Ultimately, courts have repeatedly ruled that police officers have the discretion to use as much force as they reasonably think they need at the time of the arrest to protect the public. In the video mentioned above, the victims may have a valid claim against the police officers for using excessive force. One of the officers struck the woman in the face for allegedly smoking marijuana, a crime that the district attorney rarely, if ever, prosecutes.

When is Deadly Force Justified?

The standard for the use of deadly force by police officers is even more stringent. In a 1985 ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that police officers must have probable cause to believe that a suspect they are resting poses a threat of serious harm to others or the police officer to use deadly force to prevent the suspect's escape. A common example of justified deadly force would be a police officer using force on a suspect who threatens an officer with a gun.

The court did include a provision stating that police officers should warn those they are resting before using deadly force. If the family member of the victim's attorney can prove that the use of deadly force was unjustified because the suspect pose no immediate threat to others or the police officer, they may be able to bring a civilian lawsuit against the police department successfully.

Discuss Your Case With a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney in Charlotte

If you have been arrested in Charlotte and an officer used unjustified force against you, it is crucial that you reach out to an experienced attorney. Similarly, if you are facing charges for marijuana-based crimes or any other crime, an attorney can help you protect your rights and navigate the legal system. Do not hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with a skilled attorney.