The following information refers to general searches as well as those of motor vehicles, because regulations are generally similar, if not identical.
United Kingdom (England and Wales)
This gives a short overview of the compensation rights of people who feel that their property (in general, not just a motor vehicle) has been unfairly damaged in a search.
Constituents sometimes ask whether they can get compensation for damage (for example to a front door) following forced entry by the police. Police forces do sometimes make ex gratia payments or pay compensation following such damage, for example where the raid was at the wrong premises. However, statutory guidance states that compensation for such damage is “unlikely to be appropriate if the search was lawful, and the force used can be shown to be reasonable, proportionate and necessary to effect entry.” Where a police force refuses to make such a payment, then a constituent wishing to pursue the matter further would need to obtain specialist legal advice.
However, if a person wishes to press the issue, s/he can always sue the police.
The Police Powers page on the Citizen’s Advice website gives the following very general information about suing the police:
If your complaint is serious, you may wish to sue the police. You can sue the police in the same way that you can sue members of the public. If you want to sue the police, you should talk to a specialist solicitor.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 sets forth some parameters for suing law enforcement officials.
Under Section 1983 damages can take the form of nominal damages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.
- Compensatory Damages may include lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, out of pocket expenses, pain/suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress suffered. There is no inherent “value” in constitutional rights. Damage awards for 1983 actions, separate and aside from normal tort standards, may not be based on the abstract “value” or “importance of constitutional rights" There may, however, be inferred damages, which arise in situations where the circumstances themselves surrounding the violation imply actual damages.
- Punitive Damages may be assessed when the defendant’s conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected right. Punitive damages may be found even when the underlying threshold for liability is recklessness. Municipalities are immune from punitive damages.
- Injunctive Relief may be awarded.
- Nominal Damages may be awarded by the jury if they determine that the plaintiff's Constitutional rights were violated but they do not believe that they suffered substantive damages.
However, the person must prove that their rights have been explicitly violated. This is often difficult to do.
Two cases of interest are Cody v. Mello and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents. The latter has been widely used alongside 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to support the idea that people can be compensated for damages.
In any case, to gain damages, a person must bring a civil suit to court. It may or may not be successful, depending on the circumstances.