Use of Force
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What Constitutional standard governs free citizens’ excessive-force claims?
•Court balances individual’s 4th-Am. interests against Govt’s interests under the "reasonableness" standard
Courts determine reasonableness by
•Balancing nature and quality of intrusion on individual's 4th–Am. right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
The reasonableness standard is
an objective balancing test, measuring the actual need for force (The Gov’t Interest) against the force used (п’s 4th-Am. Interest).
The Government’s interests are measured by such factors as:
- •Does subject pose an imminent threat to officer’s or someone else’s safety?
- •Is subject actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee?
- •How severe is the crime at issue?
Force Decision: Threat
the most weighty of the Graham factors. The more imminently dangerous the threat is, the greater the degree of force that may be justified in countering it.
Force Decision: Crime Severity
The more violent the crime that the suspect is believed to have committed, the greater the degree of force that may be reasonably used to apprehend the suspect
Force Decision: Resistance of Flight
The more violently a suspect resists arrest, the greater the degree of force that may be reasonably used to counter the suspect’s resistance
Graham V. Connor; Ultimate Question
whether officers’ actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them.
Standard of objective reasonableness
- -Judged from perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene
- -Officer’s subjective intentions are irrelevant (At the moment force is applied)
- -No 20/20-vision hindsight will be applied
Governmental Interest Factors
(3) Level of Resistance
Can you use deadly force against a fleeing felon to prevent his escape?
- •Yes... if you’ve got PC to believe fleeing felon poses a threat of serious physical harm to you or others.
- •Yes... If the suspect threatens you with a weapon likely to inflict serious bodily injury or death.
- •Yes... if you’ve got PC to believe suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm.
- •And... if, where feasible, some warning has been given.
The 4th Amendment guarantees:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable … seizures ...”
Brendlin v. Calif., 551 U.S. 249 (2007)
4thAm. “seizure” occurs where LEO, by means of physical force or show of authority, restrains person’s freedom of movement through means intentionally applied
Non-Seizure Example: Cnty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998)
•No seizure where police car unintentionally hit passenger who’d fallen from fleeing motorcycle during chase.
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