Police May Be Liable For Taser Use

A federal appeals court in California has ruled that police officers who use their Taser weapons during routine traffic stops may be held liable. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco said that use of the Taser against unarmed suspects who pose no threat may lead to legal liability for the police officer. Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote that Carl Bryan did not threaten the officer nor try to elude the officer that had stopped him. The judge noted these are two of the three elements considered by the US Supreme Court in determining if significant force is justified. The third element concerns the nature and severity of the offense which prompted the police stop in the first place. In this case involving Carl Bryan, the judge noted that “traffic violations generally will not support the use of a significant level of force.”
The case is seen by many court observers as significant and may be the first step in determining judicial standards for the use of Tasers by police officers.