When a police officer is in the process of apprehending someone who is suspected of committing a crime, the officer is permitted to use a certain degree of force. More specifically, officers are allowed to use a reasonable amount of force that is proportionate to the circumstances of the arrest. In some instances, however, officers use an excessive amount of force when making an arrest, such as using a Taser against an individual when such use is not necessary.
If a police officer uses an excessive amount of force against a suspect that involves a Taser, and the suspect is injured in the process, he or she may file a claim or lawsuit against the police officer, the police department, and/or the municipality that employs the officer.
If you or someone you care about was the victim of a Taser injury caused by an overly aggressive police officer in Philadelphia, call the federal civil rights lawyers at The Zeiger Firm. Let our experienced legal team see if we can help you fight for justice in your case and pursue the monetary compensation that you deserve.
Please call us today to learn more about how we can assist you with filing your federal claim or lawsuit for excessive Taser use by a police officer. Our Philadelphia police brutality lawyers litigate federal cases that arise in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which encompasses the following counties: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
When Does Taser Use Amount to Excessive Force?
A Taser is a type of device used in law enforcement that shoots a series of electric probes into the subject, to subdue him or her. These devices can cause very painful injuries and, depending upon the suspect, may cause a heart attack or even death. Determining whether or not the use of a Taser device against a criminal suspect amounts to excessive force depends largely upon the facts and circumstances that surround the suspect’s arrest.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals who have been suspected or accused of committing a crime are protected against unwanted and unreasonable searches and seizures. The use of excessive force while being placed under arrest may constitute an unreasonable seizure. However, courts are aware that when a police officer is in the process of arresting a person, the officer likely has to make a series of split-second decisions. Therefore, the totality of all circumstances must be considered.
When determining whether or not Taser use amounts to excessive force under a specific set of circumstances, the hypothetical question posed in court is what would a “reasonable police officer” do if confronted with the same or a similar situation.
To reach a conclusion, a court will often take into consideration the following:
- Seriousness of the underlying crime – Generally speaking, the more serious the suspected crime, the more likely it is that a police officer was justified in using a greater degree of force. For example, Taser use would likely be more appropriate and justified if a police officer apprehends a violent criminal, as opposed to apprehending someone who was speeding or committed a minor traffic violation.
- Resisting arrest – Criminal suspects can become very agitated and upset during the arrest process. They may try to fight off the police officer or flee the scene of the arrest. In those instances, the arresting police officer generally has more discretion to use a Taser than if the suspect were cooperating with the officer and complying with all of the officer’s directives.
- Safety threat to the arresting police officer – There is no doubt that police officers have very dangerous jobs. If a suspect is threatening to physically harm the police officer (either by words or actions), the police officer may be justified in using force against the suspect, which can include a Taser. Even in cases where the suspected crime is a minor one, a police officer may still be justified in using a Taser if the individual is making threatening gestures or is trying to physically attack or harm the officer.
Our experienced Philadelphia federal civil rights lawyers can review the facts and circumstances surrounding you or your loved one’s arrest and determine whether or not the police officer likely employed an unreasonable amount of force under the circumstances.
Other Factors to Consider
When it comes to Taser use by police officers, there are additional factors that courts will look to when determining whether or not the arresting officer used a proportionate amount of force under the circumstances. One such factor is the extent to which the suspect was injured by the use of a Taser, along with the nature of the injuries. If the injuries seem disproportionate to the suspected crime and the circumstances of the arrest, then the officer may have used too much force when they employed a Taser.
Courts will also consider whether or not the arresting police officer warned the suspect that he or she was going to use a Taser—and if the officer even identified himself or herself as a police officer from the outset.
Call Us Today to Speak With a Federal Civil Rights Attorney
If you or a person you love has been the victim of excessive Taser use by an overzealous police officer, the knowledgeable legal team at The Zeiger Firm is ready to help. Our legal team will review the circumstances of your arrest and may bring a claim or lawsuit directly against the arresting officer, the police department, and/or the municipality where the incident occurred.
We work with clients throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with our federal civil rights lawyers, call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.