Our skilled Los Angeles civil rights lawyers are dedicated to providing expert counsel for victims of police misconduct. While police officers risk their lives daily to serve and protect their communities, there are unfortunate instances when encounters turn violent. Officers are trained in nonviolent methods to restrain or subdue suspects, but there are situations where extreme force becomes necessary. Firearms are used as a last resort when there is a threat to the officer or innocent individuals. However, tasers serve as an effective alternative for subduing suspects, providing a non-lethal jolt of electricity that immobilizes them temporarily, allowing officers to regain control.
However, there are cases where police officers misuse or excessively use tasers, resulting in serious bodily harm to suspects. In such instances, victims are strongly urged to contact a civil rights lawyer promptly to protect their rights.
Understanding How Tasers Work
Our civil rights lawyers advocate for victims injured by the misuse of tasers by police officers. When a taser is deployed, two wires with probes are released, embedding into the suspect’s body. Pulling the trigger releases a five-second burst of up to 50,000 volts of electricity. Tasers have a range of up to 30 feet and can penetrate an inch of clothing. Holding the trigger down delivers a continuous flow of electricity, while a drive stun involves holding the taser directly against the suspect’s skin to induce pain but not temporary paralysis. These methods can be effective in gaining compliance from suspects.
Regulating Taser Use
While it is crucial for police departments to establish and enforce clear regulations on taser use, misuse can occur without proper training. In California, local police departments have the authority to regulate taser use by their officers. For effective regulation, comprehensive training must be provided. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, for example, recently updated its guidelines to clarify that tasers should not be used once the suspect is no longer a threat to the officer, the public, or themselves.
When Should Police Officers Use Tasers?
Our civil rights lawyers fight passionately for victims impacted by police mistreatment. Tasers offer the advantage of subduing suspects without resorting to lethal force. However, there are instances where officers may use tasers incorrectly due to inadequate or absent training. Each state’s Law Enforcement Standards Board disseminates a training guide specifying how and when tasers should be used. Police officers can use a taser gun if a suspect is actively resisting their control efforts, fleeing the scene of a crime, or about to use another weapon against the officer or someone else. These are the only circumstances in which the use of a stun gun is permissible. Deviating from these rules and causing injury through taser use can result in a lawsuit against the officer or the department.
Distinguishing Between Reasonable Force and Taser Abuse
Our civil rights lawyers strive for justice for victims of civil rights violations. Police officers can use tasers when it is reasonable under the circumstances. When the situation warrants it, officers are authorized to use reasonable force, including tasers or even lethal force if the suspect becomes violent. However, if the circumstances do not justify reasonable force, and an officer uses a taser excessively or abusively, it becomes a violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights, protecting citizens from unreasonable seizure. Depending on the circumstances, the use of a taser may also violate other civil and criminal laws.
In court, judges or juries consider various factors when determining whether excessive force was used and how a reasonable police officer would act in similar circumstances:
- The severity of the crime: If a suspect becomes violent or threatening, the use of a taser will likely be considered reasonable. However, if a police officer uses a taser during a routine traffic stop and the motorist was simply questioning why he or she was pulled over, this is generally considered an unacceptable use of a taser gun.
- The threat to public safety: This is generally the most important factor in determining whether a taser gun was used appropriately or not. Although courts often rule in favor of the police officer, there are times when the court finds that excessive force was used. For example, in the case of Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst, a mentally ill man was tasered five times by police. The man had wrapped himself around a post and refused to move. After unsuccessful attempts to get the man to move, a police officer deployed the taser five times. The suspect became unresponsive and died. A federal appeals court stated that a taser can be used only if there is an immediate safety risk; however, the court ultimately found that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.
- The resistance of the subject: If a police officer uses a taser on a suspect who flees the scene or is actively trying to resist arrest, it is unlikely that the court will consider the use of a taser to be reasonable. However, if the subject continues to pose a threat, it may justify the use of a taser.
Situations in Which the Use of Tasers is Justified: Examples and Legal Rights
At our law firm, we have a dedicated team of civil rights lawyers who provide expert counsel to victims of police misconduct, particularly cases involving the misuse of tasers. While police officers play a crucial role in maintaining public safety, there are unfortunate instances where encounters turn violent, resulting in serious bodily harm to suspects. Tasers are meant to be a non-lethal alternative for subduing suspects, but when misused, they can cause significant injuries. In such cases, it is important for victims to seek legal representation promptly to protect their rights.
Understanding Tasers: How They Work and Regulations
Tasers are devices that deliver a non-lethal jolt of electricity to temporarily immobilize individuals, allowing officers to regain control. When a taser is deployed, two wires with probes are released, embedding into the suspect’s body. They deliver a burst of up to 50,000 volts of electricity for a duration of five seconds. Tasers can be effective in gaining compliance from suspects and are typically used when suspects pose a threat to the officer or others.
Regulating taser use is essential to prevent misuse. In California, local police departments have the authority to establish and enforce regulations on taser use by their officers. Comprehensive training is crucial to ensure proper usage. For example, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recently updated its guidelines to clarify that tasers should not be used once the suspect is no longer a threat. When officers deviate from these rules and cause injury through taser use, they can be held accountable through legal action.
Justifying Taser Use: Examples and Distinctions
Our civil rights lawyers fight passionately for victims impacted by police mistreatment. Tasers can be justified when a suspect poses an immediate threat to the officer or others. Examples of court cases where taser use was deemed justified include:
McNeil v. City of Easton, 694 F.Supp.2d 375 (E.D. Pa. 2010): Police attempted to apprehend a disorderly conduct suspect who refused to show his hands, threatened the officers, and displayed combative behavior. The officers tasered the suspect, resulting in minor injuries.
Draper v. Reynolds, 369 F.3d 1270 (11th Cir. 2004): A subject stopped for a tag-light issue became aggressive and confrontational with the officer. The officer used the taser for a single shock to subdue the suspect.
On the other hand, there are cases of taser misuse where police officers abuse their power, resulting in serious injuries. Examples of inappropriate taser use include:
A Russian man at the Vancouver International Airport who was tasered multiple times despite being already pinned and handcuffed, leading to a fatal heart attack.
A UCLA student who was tasered five times while his hands were bound during an incident of passive resistance. The case settled for $200,000, prompting the university to update its use-of-force policy.
Seeking Justice and Damages for Taser Abuse
In 2020, our law firm reached a $2.2 million settlement in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) for the death of Tashi S. Farmer. The lawsuit alleged excessive use of a taser gun by an officer.
If you have been a victim of taser misuse, it is crucial to understand your legal rights. Lawsuits against police officers can be challenging to win, but with the help of a skilled civil rights lawyer, you can gather evidence, establish deviation from guidelines, and build a strong case. Damages that may be recovered in taser misuse cases include medical costs, lost wages, emotional damages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages for gross negligence.
Consulting with a Civil Rights Lawyer: Protecting Your Rights
When facing serious injuries resulting from taser misuse by a police officer, it is imperative to consult with an experienced civil rights lawyer promptly. Our team will thoroughly investigate your case, collect vital evidence such as witness testimonies and video surveillance, and ensure your legal rights are safeguarded.
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries due to unjustified taser use by a police officer, we encourage you to contact ACTS Law. Our priority is protecting your rights, and we will relentlessly advocate for your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling us at 833-ACTS-LAW or reaching out online. With offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we proudly serve clients throughout Southern California.