January 14, 2013 Articles

Eleventh Circuit Should Define Constitutional Use of Tasers

Police and the public need guidance on how Tasers can be used consistently with the Constitution.

By Sarah E. Ricks – January 14, 2013

Tasers are useful tools for law enforcement to control dangerous situations without resorting to deadly force. A Department of Justice study found that more than 15,000 law-enforcement and military agencies use them, and concluded that the use of Tasers over other forms of force “substantially decreased the likelihood of suspect injury.” Because Tasers are widely used, police and the public need guidance on how Tasers can be used consistently with the Constitution.

The Eleventh Circuit should provide additional guidance to Alabama, Florida, and Georgia police and local governments attempting to ensure that officers use Tasers consistently with the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures. Clarity in constitutional law matters, not only to careful police seeking to do the right thing. Clarity in the law matters to people who may be subjected to police force. Specifically, if the constitutional right is not clearly defined, police accused of excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures can have qualified immunity from a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit for damages.

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