AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Tasers, Stun Belts/Guns, and other Electronic Control Devices
Monthly Law Journal
Liability for Use of Tasers, stunguns, and other electronic control devices
- Part I: 4th Amendment claims for excessive force. 2007 (3) AELE Mo.
L. J. 101
Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Tasers, stunguns, and other electronic control devices - Part II: Use Against Juveniles, and Inadequate Training Claims, 2007 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Use of Force and the Hollywood Factor, by Jeffry L. Johnson, 2007 (4) AELE Mo. L.J. 501.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Tasers, stunguns, and other electronic control devices--Part III: Use Against Detainees and Disabled or Disturbed Persons, 2007 (5) AELE Mo. L.J. 101.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Electronic Control Devices: Liability and Training Aspects, by Edmund Zigmund, 2007 (5) AELE Mo. L.J. 501.
A man arrested for battery on a peace officer, and subdued through the use of a Taser, was again subjected to a Taser at the county jail he refused to comply with a mandated strip search during the booking process. The officer warned the detainee that the Taser would be used if he continued to refuse to comply with orders. The prisoner, who appeared to be under the influence of either alcohol or some other substance yelled obscenities, clenched his fists, called the officers "faggots" and other names, and paced back and forth, continuing his refusal. The prisoner sued the officer, claiming excessive use of force. A federal appeals court upheld the use of the Taser as reasonable. The officer at the jail was aware that the detainee allegedly already attacked one officer that evening, necessitating the earlier use of a Taser against him, and he appeared intoxicated and to be acting in an aggressive and unpredictable manner, clearly posing an immediate threat to safety and order within the jail. The use of the Taser was "a reasonable, good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline within the jail," and "no reasonable jury would conclude" that the officer acted with a malicious or sadistic intent. Forrest v. Prine, #09-3471,2010 U.S. App. Lexis 18151 (7th Cir.).
In a prisoner's lawsuit claiming that a correctional officer used excessive force against him, the defendant officer could not be awarded qualified immunity when his motion was based on assumptions of disputed fact contrary to those alleged by the prisoner. The prisoner claimed that the officer, during a dispute, ordered him to roll over onto his stomach while he was laying on the ground, but that before he could comply, the officer tased him in his genital area, causing him to pass out and wake up in a wheelchair, and causing incontinence, impotence, nerve damage, and a need for extensive psychological treatment. He claimed he was posing no threat to the officer at the time. The officer contended that the inmate was agitated and that his "angry behavior continued unabated" so that it was safer to use the Taser than have to wrestle with him on the hard concrete ground of the cell. Mahamed v. Anderson, #09-2030, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 15767 (Unpub. 8th Cir.).
The issue before the appeals court was whether the Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment applied to claims of excessive force against four corrections officers asserted by a pretrial detainee in the process of being booked, but no longer in the custody of the arresting officer who arrested him without a warrant. He claimed that he was improperly beaten and repeatedly tased while being held in the booking room prior to his photo being taken and before he had a probable cause hearing. The court ruled that the Fourth Amendment protects pre-trial detainees arrested without a warrant through the completion of their probable-cause hearings. The trial court, therefore, acted in error in applying a Fourteenth Amendment legal standard, and further proceedings were ordered as to claims against three of the officers. The error was harmless, however, as to claims against a fourth officer, as the trial court, applying the Fourteenth Amendment standard, found that he was not entitled to qualified immunity. Any violation of the Fourteenth Amendment excessive force standard, the court commented, would necessarily also violate the Fourth Amendment. Aldini v. Johnson, #09-3183, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 13207 (6th Cir.).
A jail detainee claimed that deputies used excessive force against him, subjecting him to repeated Taser shocks and also shooting him twice with beanbag rounds from a shotgun. The defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity when they allegedly did this while he was already on his knees, holding his hands in the air before they entered his cell and remained there while they subjected him to the Taser and beanbag rounds. Council v. Sutton, #09-13968, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 2886 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).
A guard who entered the cell of a hunger striking detainee user a Taser on him after the prisoner allegedly failed to comply with an order to get up from his bed. The prisoner claimed that he was merely unable to comply quickly because he was sluggish from the hunger strike and sick from ingesting Motrin. He claimed that the Taser was improperly used against him without warning before he could explain his failure to quickly comply. Further proceedings were ordered regarding the mental state of the officer who discharged the Taser, but claims against second officer present for failure to intervene were properly dismissed since there was, realistically, no opportunity to intervene. Lewis v. Downey, #08-2960, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 19974 (7th Cir.).
A prisoner did not state a claim for excessive use of force based on a sergeant allegedly pressing a Taser against his back and pressing him against elevator doors while transporting him. There was no claim that the Taser was activated, and the alleged actions only caused minimum discomfort, and failed to constitute a "malicious and sadistic" application of force. Sawyer v. Green, No. 08-3083, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 13119 (Unpub. 10th Cir.).
The use of a Taser® against a prisoner is not, by itself, a violation of constitutional rights when it is used to obtain his obedience, and the plaintiff prisoner did not prove that its use against him was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. A correctional officer was therefore entitled to qualified immunity on the prisoner's claims against him individually. The prisoner had just suffered minor injuries during an altercation with officers while receiving his medication. He subsequently refused to obey orders to sit on his bunk while officers re-entered his cell to retrieve some dropped keys, and the Taser® was used against him to compel his compliance, after which the keys were retrieved, and a nurse entered the cell to provide medical assistance. Claims against the officer in his official capacity were barred by the Eleventh Amendment, as the state of Kansas had not waived its immunity against federal civil rights lawsuits for damages under the general language of a state statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. Sec. 19-811. Hunter v. Young, No. 06-3371, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 13886 (10th Cir.).
Trial court held a hearing and found sufficient justification before ordering the placement of a stun belt on a prisoner being tried for two murders who was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death. The prisoner, who is an epileptic, objected, claiming that an electric shock could cause or aggravate a seizure. The court's decision was supported by the evidence, including testimony that the belt would only be activated if the defendant attempted to escape, or to engage inan assault or otherviolent actions. The belt is non-lethal and short-term, according to the evidence, and an audible alert tone indicates that it is going to go off, giving thedefe ndant an opportunity to "pull back" and cease offending behavior. Since clothing was worn over the belt, it was not visible to the jury, and therefore did not result in prejudice. . The defendant's record of violence also justifiedd the decision to require the wearing of the stun belt. Adams v. Bradshaw, Case No. 1:05 CV 1886, 484 F. Supp. 2d 753, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 30091 (N.D.Ohio 2007)
Prisoner's complaint, alleging that corrections officers repeatedly stunned him with a stun gun to compel him to obey orders that they knew he was unable to comply with should not have been dismissed. If the prisoner's allegations were true, this would state a valid claim for excessive use of force with "malicious and sadistic intent to harm him," rather than a "good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." Brown v. Thompson, No. 05-14042, 159 Fed. Appx. 119 (11th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Male prisoner's Eighth Amendment rights were not violated by his being restrained naked on a table for two days and being videotaped and observed by female prison personnel after he provoked a violent disturbance. Prisoner had been stripped to ensure that he did not possess contraband or a weapon, and had himself removed a blanket which prison personnel attempted to use to cover him. Use of stun gun earlier to control prisoner was not excessive. Camp v. Brennan, #02-2003, 54 Fed. Appx. 78 (3rd Cir. 2002). [2003 JB Apr]
297:141 Injunction that prohibited the use of stun belts to control unruly prisoners in court was overbroad to the extent that it prevented their use for controlling court security, such as to prevent escape or violence; appeals court orders injunction modified and rules that plaintiff prisoner, who was convicted, could not represent the interests of unconvicted detainees, so that case was improperly certified as a class action. Hawkins v. Comparet-Cassani, Nos. 99- 55187, 99-55394, 251 F.3d 1230 (9th Cir. 2001).
293:78 Louisiana trial court denies summary judgment in prisoner's lawsuit over his being required to wear a stun belt for nine hours on a day when he went to court; lawsuit claims that wearing the belt for that period of time was cruel and unusual punishment despite it not having been activated. Sinclair v. State of Louisiana, No. 469,519 Louisiana trial court, (19th JDC Div. N. La.), reported in The National Law Journal, p. 1 (Feb. 19, 2001).
269:77 Federal judge enjoins use of stun belts to control unruly prisoners in court. Hawkins v. Comparet- Cassani, 33 F.Supp.2d 1244 (C.D. Cal. 1999).
Federal appeals court rules that use of stun gun to compel prisoner to sweep his cell was cruel and unusual punishment. Hickey v. Reeder, 12 F.3d 754 (8th Cir. 1993).
Officers did not subject prisoner to cruel and unusual punishment by using a stun gun and straitjacket to subdue him after he spent seven hours shouting and kicking at his isolation cell door and ignored orders to cease his disturbance. Caldwell v. Moore, 968 F.2d 595 (6th cir. 1992).
Man arrested for allegedly exposing himself dies from stun gun use while resisting jail strip search; suit over death settled for $650,000. Leonti v. Santa Clara Co., U.S. Dist. Ct., San Jose, Cal., reported in San Jose Mercury-News, p. 1B, April 24, 1991.
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