Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s (DA) office announced that it would not press charges against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, Daniel Andrew, who was recorded on a cell phone throwing down a woman and repeatedly punching her alongside the 10 Freeway. The district attorney’s office issued a 30-page report concluding that Officer Andrew was “required to use some level of force” to keep the victim, Marlene Pinnock, from running or walking out onto freeway traffic. The DA’s office further stated that Andrew was by himself and had a duty to protect both Ms. Pinnock and commuters from a potentially dangerous situation.
Back in 2014, a cell phone recording of this incident was released online and caused public outrage. The DA’s decision not to file criminal charges comes nine months after the final use-of-force report was issued on Pinnock’s original arrest on July 1, 2014. It has also been over a year since CHP gave the DA their report on their criminal investigation into Andrew’s actions. The video shows him throwing Ms. Pinnock down to the ground, sitting on her, and punching her at least ten times. Andrew was also forced to resign as part of a $1.5-million settlement reached in September in an excessive force lawsuit filed in federal court by Pinnock against CHP. Civil rights advocates had pushed for additional criminal charges.
What is the Standard for Use of Force?
It is pretty well-established that police are allowed to use force in order to curb a threat, stop someone who is resisting arrest, trying to flee a crime scene, or for officer self-defense or defense of others. While there is no single, universal definition, nor has it been codified in a statute, context certainly counts in police use of force situations. Depending on the circumstances, the timing and amount of force used must only be the amount necessary to mitigate the situation, make an arrest, or protect themselves. Because of that, it is often difficult to define excessive force. According to the U.S. Department of justice, whatever force was used must have been reasonable.
State Criminal Laws are Still Applicable to Police
In excessive force situations, this amounts to abuse by police that amounts to a crime. In other words, state criminal laws still apply to officers while on the job. This can encompass:
- assault with a deadly weapon (ie. baton or gun);
Lastly, California has a specific statute that addresses police who “unnecessarily” assault or beat another person while “under the color of their authority” on the job. See California Penal Code §149. Penal Code § 149 specifically provides for criminal penalties for this violation. A conviction is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.
San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases including cases of police misconduct and situations where police abuse has resulted in faulty charges against you. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.