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Taser Pain May Be Considered By Supreme Court As Excessive Force

Publication Date: 
May 22, 2012
Source: 
ABC News
Author: 
Ariane De Vogue

Professor Robert Weisberg is quoted by Ariane De Vogue of ABC News on a potential Supreme Court case that would determine if Taser guns are a form of excessive force.

Federal Judge's Dissent Was Summed Up When He Wrote, "Bull Pucky!"

The Seattle police officers say they chose one of the safest tools in their arsenal when they used a Taser gun against a pregnant woman resisting arrest.

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"This case looks very dramatic on its facts," says Robert Weisberg of Stanford Law School. "But that doesn't mean it's a very good case for the court to take." Weisberg notes that both parties have filed petitions asking for the court to step in and that there is no decision below imposing damages.

"The Supreme Court might say 'This is procedurally too weird a situation to be the right vehicle for us to say something about Tasers,' " Weisberg says. "I think the court is likely to view Tasers as a legitimate means of inflicting non lethal force. If so, it may find it impractical to declare a constitutional rule about when Taser use is okay and when it isn't because the legitimacy of Taser use may just depend on the situation. If so, the court's view might be, 'we don't want to treat Tasers differently from other non lethal means of force' therefore it's not desirable to have a rule for Tasers. The rules governing Tasers will be the general rules governing excessive force and therefore we don't want to make a constitutional doctrine out of Tasers."

He says in general that lower courts have tended to defer to police on the use of Tasers, but there have been a few cases where a person has won a lawsuit against police, where the Taser use was arguably unnecessary and where it happened to inflict serious harm.