On Monday, October 3, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from law enforcement officers challenging a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling restricting the use of Tasers for law enforcement. By not agreeing to hear the case, the justices left the lower court ruling in place.
In the appeals court’s January 11, 2016 opinion involving the 2011 death of a mentally challenged North Carolina man, the court ruled officers are not allowed to use their Tasers unless someone is creating “an immediate safety risk.” This means using a Taser is prohibited if a suspect is simply resisting arrest. The officer must articulate “immediate danger” as well.
The pain caused by a Taser is an excessive use of force that violates the person’s constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment, according to the appeals court’s opinion.
In effect, if an individual is refusing to be taken into custody, the arresting officers will have to resort to physical confrontation, which has the potential to lead to more incidences of deadly force being used when police contend the suspect was trying to take away an officer’s gun in the struggle.
The 4th Circuit ruling affects Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Virginia.
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