Unnecessary Use Of Tasers Banned By Federal Court

The use of unnecessary force by law enforcement officers is a common and inexcusable problem. Many of the attorneys at Finch McCranie LLP have law enforcement backgrounds and recognize the inherent dangers of police work and the need at times to use force. However, this does not justify the use of unnecessary force.
The United States Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit has recently issued an opinion addressing this issue in the context of Taser use. The Court, headquartered in California has sent a strong warning to law enforcement officers that should make them hesitate before routinely using Tasers. It ruled last week that a police officer can be held liable for delivering a high-level electric shock to an unarmed person who poses no immediate threat.
The case arose out of an incident involving a young man who was driving to his parents’ home when he was stopped for speeding. He had previously been stopped and ticketed for On the same trip, he was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt.
Angry at facing a second traffic citation, he hit the steering wheel and yelled expletives to himself and exited the car. The officer making the stop claimed the young man took one step in his direction, while the young man denied making any such move. However, it is undisputed that the young man was not armed, did not verbally threaten the officer and was not attempting to flee.
Without warning, the officer shot the young man with a Taser, which delivers a very painful, 1,200-volt electric charge. As the current immobilized him, the young man fell to the ground, fracturing four teeth.
The young man sued for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that the officer was not justified in using the Taser on the young man who posed no threat, and was merely stopped for speeding.
While the the ruling is only binding on those states which comprise the Ninth Circuit, it is nonetheless important. There have been many questions raised about the dangers of Tasers, with death resulting in some instances. All courts should recognize that the routine use of potentially dangerous force is not justified.

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