Weekly Law Resume - December 22, 2010: Government Liability - Taser Considered Intermediate Level of Force

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Electronic Control Devices, otherwise known as "Tasers," have become one of the most important less lethal weapon options for police officers. In this case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now characterized the use of a taser as an intermediate level of force, and has set forth guidelines to weigh when considering a claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.

On the early Sunday morning of July 25, 2005, plaintiff Carl Bryan was stopped by defendant Bryan MacPherson, a Coronado police officer, at a seatbelt check point, as he crossed the Coronado bridge onto Coronado Island. Bryan had already been given a speeding ticket that morning by the California Highway Patrol and apparently had forgotten to put his seatbelt back on. When Officer MacPherson indicated he was going to give Bryan another ticket, Bryan, dressed only in boxer shorts and tennis shoes, became extremely agitated. He began banging his hands on his dashboard, cursing to himself. He then got out of his car and began cursing again and pounding his fists on his thighs.

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