Police Reform Act of 2020
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is a civil rights and police reform bill drafted by Democrats in the United States Congress. The legislation aims to combat police misconduct, excessive force, and racial bias in policing.
Although there are many different versions of the bill at the national and local level many of them either limit or eliminate qualified immunity for police officers.
What Is Qualified Immunity?
Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations (ie. the right to be free from excessive police force) for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law. Both 42 U.S.C. § 1983—a statute originally passed to assist the government in combating Ku Klux Klan violence in the South after the Civil War—and the Supreme Court’s decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971) allow individuals to sue government officials for money damages when they violate their constitutional rights.
A 1982 case, Harlow v. Fitzgerald set the standard for what qualified immunity means today. In Harlow, the court established that a plaintiff could overcome qualified immunity only by showing that the defendant’s conduct “violate[d] clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” The court also stated that the standard “provide[d] no license to lawless conduct.” “If the law was clearly established, the immunity defense ordinarily should fail, since a reasonably competent public official should know the law governing his conduct,” the court wrote.
What does the Police Reform Act mean for Qualified Immunity?
With limiting or elimination of qualified immunity, police officers may become susceptible to law suits for incidents that occur in the course of their work regardless if it “violate[d] clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
The Harlow Court expressly noted that its decision sought to achieve a “balance” between allowing victims to hold officials accountable and minimizing “social costs” to “society as a whole.” The passing of this bill would toss this ruling aside and open police officers to liability for simply doing their job regardless if their action violated statutory or constitutional rights.
7 steps you can take to protect yourself without Qualified Immunity.
As a law enforcement officer, society has an expectation that you will serve and protect regardless of whether you are clocked in. Unfortunately, even in the event you stop a crime or even save a life you can find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. It’s not news that law enforcement personnel are often sued for justified shootings, self-defense situations and/or a variety of other situations.
Your homeowners, condo or renter’s insurance policy is your first line of defense from a liability insurance standpoint. These policies typically include anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 in liability coverage for you and your immediate live-in family members. In the event you are named in a lawsuit for a variety of reasons this policy may provide valuable protection. In addition to this coverage, you can also secure an “umbrella policy” which gives you an additional $1,000,000 or more in protection.
It’s important to point out that both homeowners’ insurance and umbrella policies have certain limitations and exclusions. The following situations could result in a denial of coverage.
-Intentional acts are typically excluded.
-Criminal Acts or Gross Negligence are also typically excluded.
Special note, some carriers can deny a claim if you shoot someone with your police issued weapon under a business exclusion as oppose to your personally owned weapon.
2-Law Enforcement Liability Insurance
Law enforcement liability insurance provides coverage for bodily injury, personal injury or property damage caused by a wrongful act committed by or on behalf of a public entity while conducting law enforcement activities or operations.
A select group of Insurance companies offer Law Enforcement Liability Insurance. According to Travelers Insurance, their insurance covers the following:
3-Law Officers Legal Plan
This legal plan covers both on and off the job legal coverage.
A select group of Insurance companies offer Law Officers Legal Plans. According to Legal Shield, their insurance covers all but not limited to the following:
4-Motor Vehicle Insurance
Your personal motor vehicle insurance can protect you both on and off the job. If you have been in a car accident, and the other driver was at fault, you may end up making a claim under the uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist provisions of your own automobile insurance policy. These two provisions of your auto policy come into play when the at-fault driver either has no insurance coverage, or insufficient insurance coverage, to pay for the bodily injuries and/or property damage you experienced as a result of the car accident. This policy can be used in addition to insurance and policies offered by your employer. Remember, you are only as good as your insurance policy!
Life insurance is available to police officers just the same way it is available to everyone else. Any police officer is entitled to an affordable term, permanent and universal life insurance rates. Being a law enforcer should not disqualify you from obtaining the best life insurance coverage. If you have term life insurance, most people choose to match their term policy to the years they have remaining until retirement.
On March 16, 2011, a new Massachusetts Homestead law went into effect. It completely revised and modernized Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 188, sections 1-10. Here are some of the important highlights provided Massachusetts Legal Services:
7-Holding Real Estate in a Trust or an LLC
Many people decide to put assets into irrevocable trusts to shield their assets from future (not pre-existing) creditors.
State law guides the irrevocable trust, which you can use to put your home under a trustee’s control (you can be the trustee). An irrevocable trust’s assets and income now belong not to you, but to the trust. The trustee files appropriate tax returns for the trust.
In any state, you can form a limited liability company and contribute real property to it. Like the irrevocable trust, the LLC is an independent entity. Unlike a trust, an LLC must be state-registered and approved. An LLC must observe legal business formalities and tax rules and pay any applicable fees.
As owner of the LLC, you own its property, in the sense that you are always allowed to dissolve an LLC and retake assets not tied up in debt. Owners can also receive income from property through owners’ draws.
While the effort involved in running an LLC might not make this an attractive option for holding personal real estate, it can be an excellent way to curb risks such as personal injury liability for owners of investment properties.