How Police Misconduct Cases Work

In Maryland, civil rights lawsuits against the police can be filed in either state or federal court.  The exact rules guiding the way the lawsuit must be conducted depend on which police force is being sued and whether the suit is going to be filed in state or federal court.  The following is a brief guide to police brutality and misconduct cases in Maryland.


Giving notice to the agency or municipality is one way that these cases differ from a standard lawsuit against a private party.  The notice requirements in these lawsuits is laid in these two statutes.  If the police force is a state agency, you must give notice to the state within one year of the incident.  If the police force is a local agency, you must give notice within 180 days.  There are exceptions to this rule that may allow you to sue the government even if you have not given notice, each case is unique.

Local Government Tort Claims Act                                People's Law Library Guide

State Government Tort Claims Act

How much are these cases worth?

The short answer is that if you sue in state court, the maximum amount or cap the government has to pay according to the law is $200,000 per person or $500,000 per incident.  Depending on the officer's behavior, you may be able to sue the officer personally for punitive damages.  In federal court, you can sue under section 1983 for violations of your constitutional rights, where there is no cap on the amount of damages.  Additionally, your lawyer receives attorney's fees in federal court helping make these cases easier to bring on behalf of those harmed by the police.

A case is currently on appeal to the MD Court of Appeals (Maryland's highest court) brought by the ACLU and the Public Justice Center, (the lower court opinion) challenging the cap on damages in state court.  This case could have a huge impact on the future litigation of these cases.

How much does Burke Jaskot charge to sue the police?

You will never pay for a consult for a police case.  In the majority of these cases, we charge our clients via contingency fee.  This means that we only get paid if you get paid.