Supreme Court Denies Request to Review Taser Use

By: Wallin & Klarich

The Seattle Times reports that the Supreme Court has decided not to review two cases which highlight a long-undetermined issue: how much latitude do officers have in using Taser guns against suspects. The denial of this much-anticipated review will likely leave the issue largely unresolved.

An appellate court combined two cases from two states in determining that while police officers used excessive force, they cannot be sued in federal court. The central case, which grew out of an arrest in Seattle, was brought by a woman who claimed her Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

Malaika Brooks was stopped by officers in 2004 for excessive speed in a school zone. She refused to sign the citation, which led to an altercation when police tried to arrest her. They Tasered Ms. Brooks in three locations – the neck, arm, and thigh. One of the issues involved the short interval police allowed between each shot. All three occurred within about a minute. It is argued that she had no opportunity in each case to recover and submit to authorities. Another issue is that Ms. Brooks was seven months pregnant. Officers verbally acknowledged that they knew this, considering aloud where to apply the Taser.

It was ultimately determined that the police did use excessive force, but could not be sued in federal court. It was noted that at the time Seattle Police had no clear policy on Tasers. This has since been rectified.

The Supreme Court refused to review the two cases, citing that each was too specific and did not bring into question general Taser practices. Many law enforcement officials are disappointed, having hoped that a ruling from the high court would help clarify the issue.

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Posted In: Criminal Defense