To Taser Or Not To Taser

January 25, 2010

(The “Don’t Tase Me Bro!” Video – See minute marker 1:50)

 The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that the use of a taser stun gun by a police officer can be considered, under certain circumstances, excessive force which leaves the police officer open to be sued for the injuries received by the tasered individual. The taser is an electric stun gun. It is powered by a lithium battery inside his handle. It shoots two bob prongs which are attached to the end of a wire that is 21 feet long. The prongs hook on to a person’s skin or clothing. When the prongs hit the individual, they discharge 50,000 volts of electricity for up to 5 seconds. This has the effect of temporarily incapacitated the tasered individual.

Although the taser is considered a non-lethal weapon, in some situations it has caused deaths.

In the case before the Ninth Circuit, Carl Bryan, had an emotional break-down after receiving a series of traffic tickets. While the police officer was writing out the traffic tickets, Mr. Bryan exited his vehicle and started to curse at himself. Mr. Bryan was distraught, crying and yelling giberish while beating his thighs.

A police officer on the scene, Officer McPherson tasered Mr. Bryan from approximately 20 feet away. Upon being hit by the taser, Mr. Bryan fell face down to the ground. The fall caused him to break four teeth.

The court held that at no time did Mr. Bryan present a threat to Police Officer McPherson. He neither made any verbal threat or presented a physical threat. The police officer should have spoken to Mr. Bryan first and warned him if he did not control himself he could be tasered.

As a result of this decision, Mr. Bryan can bring a civil lawsuit against Officer McPherson and his police department for injuries he received by the use of excessive force (being tasered) during his traffic stop. This is one of the first cases in the nation to create a legal standard concerning the use of taser stun guns.

Should you have an encounter with law enforcement officials who have acted inappropriately, call the criminal defense and civil litigation attorneys at the law offices of Elliot Schlissel by e-mail or at 1-800-344-6431. You may have a remedy available through a Civil Lawsuit.

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