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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: Tasering is Excessive Force and Violates 4th Amendment

Cited for speeding, Malaika Brooks, seven months pregnant, refused to sign the speeding citation. A Seattle police offer then pulled out a Taser and asked Brooks if she knew what it was. Brooks said she did not. Brooks then told the three officers present that she was pregnant, less than 60 days from giving birth, and needed to go to the bathroom. Brooks also continued to refuse to sign the speeding citation. After discussing whether Brooks should not be tasered on her stomach, the officers tasered the pregnant woman three times and dragged her out of her car.

In Maui, the police responded to a domestic dispute call. When the officers tried to arrest the husband, the wife stepped in front of her husband. When the wife’s breasts pushed up against the officer, the officer tasered the wife without warning.

Both ladies sued their respective police departments for excessive force.

In determining whether police officers are immune from suit, the Ninth Circuit applies the “immunity test.” The judges first determine whether an officer violated a plaintiff’s constitutional right. Then, if a violation is found, the judges then determine whether the constitutional right was “clearly established in light of the specific context of the case” at the time of the events in question.

In both cases, the Ninth Circuit found that the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights were violated as neither of the women posed any threat to the safety of the officers.

However, since the constitutional right to not be tasered was not clearly established in the context of the cases, and the law was not clear regarding tasering at the time of the incidents, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity in the excessive force claims.

This holding could now expose police offers, which use stun guns when there is no imminent threat of harm, to civil liability.

The Las Vegas law office of Lagomarsino Law did not represent anyone involved in the above-referenced case. The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you would like to be represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400.