Thousands of law enforcement agencies across the U.S. use tasers to subdue suspects. Although they are marketed as a non-lethal alternative to firearms, tasers have caused the death of more than 350 people in the U.S. since 1991. Police officers are authorized to use tasers as an alternative to lethal force when confronting dangerous situations. However, sometimes police officers misuse tasers when suspects do not pose a threat. Their actions in those cases may amount to police brutality, misconduct, and excessive force.
Tasers have been shown to cause varying degrees of injury including burns, scars, infections, seizures, hernias, lost vision, tissue damage, broken bones, broken teeth, and sudden cardiac arrest. Particularly vulnerable individuals, including those with heart conditions, those on drugs or taking certain medications, children, pregnant women, and the elderly are more likely to suffer serious injury and even death.
Although even healthy individuals may die from being tased a single time, death is more likely when a person is tased repetitively, or when he or she has a preexisting medical condition.
Police officers are entrusted with using tasers when it is “reasonable under the circumstances.” The U.S. Supreme Court has established a balancing test for determining if the use of a taser is reasonable under the circumstances or whether it constitutes a violation of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. The factors that are weighed in the balancing test include the severity of the alleged crime, the immediate threat posed by the suspect, and whether the suspect was resisting arrest or attempting to flee.
The use of a taser may constitute excessive force if an objectively reasonable police officer would not have used the taser in a similar situation. However, each case is determined on the basis of its particular facts and circumstances. Other considerations include whether the suspect was armed; whether the police officer issued a warning before firing the taser; whether the suspect was already restrained when he or she was tased; whether the suspect appeared to be mentally disturbed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and whether the suspect was attempting to comply with the officer’s instructions.
Police officers are entrusted with maintaining the safety of the community. To do so, it is sometimes necessary for them to use force – even lethal force. However, when police officers misuse tasers or engage in other abuses of power, they may be sued for damages under the law.
If you have been the victim of police brutality, misconduct, or excessive force, it is important to contact a knowledgeable civil rights attorney who can provide you with effective legal representation and ensure that your case is filed within the statute of limitations.
If you were unreasonably tased or subject to other acts of police brutality, misconduct or excessive force, contact the experienced Philadelphia civil rights lawyers at Williams Cedar. We represent clients nationwide from our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey. Call us today at 215-557-0099 or at 856-874-7500 to arrange a free, confidential consultation or contact us online.