November 11, 2014 Articles

Qualified Immunity in Excessive-Force Cases Post-Plumhoff

As more cases are litigated, courts should be better able to flesh out the factors that may determine whether the conduct violates a person's constitutional and statutory rights.

By Ashley J. Heilprin – November 11, 2014

Consider a police officer attempting to make an arrest who faces a fleeing or resistant suspect. The officer fires several shots toward the suspect to subdue him. The bullets strike and kill the suspect. How do our courts address these situations? Does it matter whether the individual was a committing a misdemeanor or felony? Does it matter whether other people were in the vicinity and the suspect's conduct was putting those people in danger? What other factors should the court consider in determining whether the officer's use of force was reasonable? These are all questions that a court often faces in section 1983 suits involving Fourth Amendment constitutional claims of excessive force by police officers.

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