Reasonable or Excessive Force? Police Use of Tasers

Have you or has anyone you know been a victim of excessive force?

Police lights - excessive force

Police arrested an 18-year-old man on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor using a taser on March 16, 2017. The man was running away from police and was the subject of a felony warrant.

According to the report, police spotted the man – a suspect in a robbery which happened in February – and he began to run into the University of Michigan Diag. Knowing he was headed toward a building and that the situation could change dramatically if he entered, police chased him.

A lamp post was leveled and two officers were injured. Though police were unwilling to reveal the suspect’s identity before his arraignment, they did reveal he had a history of violent crime. The officers in question felt it was necessary to stop the chase before it became a more complex situation.

What is Reasonable Force?

Unfortunately for this 18-year-old man, his actions did justify police use of reasonable force. There are, of course, limits to the amount of force a police officer can use when making an arrest.

The question in these cases is often what would a reasonable officer do in the same situation? Courts know that just like when those charged with crimes make poor decisions under pressure, police are often called upon to make split-second decisions. Of course, police are held to a high standard and they are trained to respond wisely to emergent situations.

The law, in this case, isn’t always entirely clear. A federal appeals court in 2016 ruled that a taser “may only be deployed when a police officer is confronted with an exigency that creates an immediate safety risk and that is reasonably likely to be cured by using the taser” because excessive force is often linked to taser usage by police.

There are three considerations for courts when determining whether police were using reasonable force;

  • The severity of the crime the suspect committed in order to be arrested.
  • If the suspect is posing a threat to officers or others.
  • If the suspect is physically resisting arrest.

In the case of the man at the University of Michigan, he appears to have met all three criteria for having a taser used in his arrest.

Excessive Force

There are criteria likewise used to determine if police used excessive force in making an arrest:

  • The crime is very minor – a reasonable officer wouldn’t have made an arrest.
  • If the officer made no attempt to first issue an arrest or use handcuffs.
  • If the suspect poses only a very slight threat to the officer or others.
  • If the officer(s) identified themselves as officers.
  • If the officer(s) warned the suspect that he would use a taser if the suspect didn’t comply.
  • Courts will take into consideration the extent of the suspect’s injury.

Courts have found excessive force in cases where the suspect was involved in a minor crime, wasn’t threatening, obeyed officer’s instructions and wasn’t threatening when they received their first shock. Subsequent or first shocks when suspects have been on the ground from their first shock or restrained in some way also constitute excessive force.

Take Away

If you have had excessive force used against you during an arrest, you do have legal rights. Call an experienced lawyer to talk about how to proceed. Call my office today.

Contact us