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Old 04-30-2007, 10:38 PM
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Default Court: High-speed chase suspects can't sue police

Court: High-speed chase suspects can't sue police


By Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave police officers significant protection from lawsuits by suspects who lead them on car chases.

The justices ruled 8-1 against Georgia teenager Victor Harris, who was left a quadriplegic after a police vehicle rammed his car off the road in 2001.

A police officer used "reasonable force" when ramming the teen's speeding car, the high court ruled. A videotape of the pursuit played a key role in the decision. (Watch the Cadillac flip on its side )

"The car chase that [Harris] initiated in this case posed substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority. "[Deputy Timothy] Scott's attempt to terminate the chase by forcing [Harris] off the road was reasonable."

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Harris' lawsuit against the deputy could go forward. The justices overturned the lower court ruling, meaning the suit can be dismissed.

Eight of the nine justices said they had closely viewed the videotape of the six-minute nighttime chase. It was taken from the dashboard of Scott's car and from the vehicle of another deputy from a neighboring county.

Similar pursuits have been aired, sometimes live, on many cable and broadcast television stations, and entire programs have been built around such incidents, such as "World's Wildest Police Chases."

Tape fascinates justices

The tape seemed to fascinate some of the justices. Scalia referred to the videotape repeatedly in his opinion, calling it a "wrinkle" that clearly swayed the bench.

Departing from the lower court's conclusions, Scalia wrote, "The videotape tells a different story."

He continued, "Far from being the cautious and controlled driver the lower court depicts, what we see on the video more closely resembles a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at greater risk of serious injury."

Harris, 19 at the time, was driving on a suspended license, when he refused to pull over for speeding. The police video shows him accelerating at speeds more than 100 mph, leading officers across two counties outside Atlanta. He can be seen crossing the double yellow line on the road to pass about three dozen cars.

At one point, Harris is shown pulling into a shopping center parking lot, with Scott, a Coweta County deputy, and two colleagues trying to block him. Harris then hits Scott's vehicle while fleeing. The officer radios his supervisor, requesting permission to use potentially deadly force to stop Harris.

"Let me have him, my car's already tore up," Scott says on the tape.

Police tactics described

The supervisor gives permission for the PIT maneuver -- precision intervention technique -- which involves the police car tapping the pursued vehicle at an angle so that it spins out. "Go ahead and take him out," the supervisor orders.

But Scott later said Harris was going too fast and he was worried about other drivers on the road, so the officer rammed the escaping Cadillac directly with his push bumper, causing it to go airborne down an embankment and crash.

Now 25, Harris resides at an assisted-living facility. He refused an interview to discuss the case, as did Scott. In previous testimony, Harris said he was scared when officers first turned on their sirens and that he did not want his car impounded.

"[Harris'] version of events is so utterly discredited by the record that no reasonable jury could have believed him," Scalia said. "The Court of Appeals should not have relied on such visible fiction; it should have viewed the facts in the light depicted by the videotape."

The lone dissenter was Justice John Paul Stevens, who made his views known in a rare oral summary during Monday's public session. He said the other justices got carried away by the tape.

"I can only conclude that my colleagues were unduly frightened by two or three images on the tape," Stevens noted.

The justice said it was not clear the chase threatened the lives of other citizens since the roads were mostly empty. "The risk inherent in justifying unwarranted police conduct on the basis of unfounded assumptions are unacceptable, particularly when less dramatic measures ... could have avoided such a tragic result," he cautioned.

First case on car chases

It was the first time the high court has heard a case involving police chases, and federal appeals courts have been split on the issue. Under generally applied Supreme Court precedents, an officer must show a suspect poses a "significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others" before using deadly force.

And other federal courts have said officers can be stripped of qualified immunity from lawsuits if every "reasonable" law enforcement official would have known his actions were violating clearly established law.

Law enforcement groups argued a ruling against Scott would hamstring every police official, who often would have to make split-second decisions about whether to wait until someone gets hurt -- including innocent victims or the officer himself -- before they could stop escaping motorists.

Legal analysts said it was not surprising the conservative court under Chief Justice John Roberts was inclined to give officers the kind of discretion they have sought, particularly since 9/11.

"Nobody is going to suddenly say its OK to use deadly force against a fleeing felon who poses no threat to society," said Edward Lazarus, a Supreme Court legal analyst. "They're just going to say, I think, that a speeding car going down a two-lane road at 100 mph is, in and of itself, necessarily a danger."
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Old 05-02-2007, 1:50 AM
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Thank God judicial sanity prevailed in this case. If it had gone the other way the negative consequences for police and the public would be potentially enormous. The 'knuckle dragger' involved invited the possibility for severe injury to himself and others when he chose to do what he did do................His injuries were a strong possibility, he made the wrong choice and I'm sure would of cared less if someone else had sustained the same physical trauma he did.
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Old 05-02-2007, 3:22 PM
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Default Karma can be a Bi###, and it seems to

have bitten this little thug hard., I am glad its him and not an innocent in a wheel chair for life.
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Old 05-02-2007, 4:49 PM
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Good for your court system. "I'm scared" is not an acceptable excuse for running from the police. In my opinion, anyone who flees in a vehicle should be stopped immediately with as much force as is necessary, regardless of the crime. I personally would like to see police helicopters armed.. a 20mm round (or two, or ten) into the engine block of a fleeing vehicle will end a chase pretty quickly, IMO.

The same thing that applies to guns - commit a crime using a gun and go to jail for a VERY LONG time, no parole - should apply to fleeing using a vehicle. Make the penalty for risking so many lives so foolishly, so great, that it makes it not worth it to risk being chased.
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Old 05-02-2007, 6:52 PM
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I should forward this to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office. I've asked officers before why they don't patrol on our street for the 90 mph speeders (no joke) that fly down our street day and night. They said, "We could get sued (or held liable)."
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Old 05-02-2007, 9:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scankid2591
I should forward this to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office. I've asked officers before why they don't patrol on our street for the 90 mph speeders (no joke) that fly down our street day and night. They said, "We could get sued (or held liable)."
This ruling doesn't address lawsuits against LE by innocent bystanders that may be involved as the result of a pursuit. It only says the pursued cannot sue the police for damages which he inflicted ultimately upon himself. If an innocent or uninvolved motorist or pedestrian is injured or killed as the result of a high speed pursuit, a police department and/or jurisdiction most certainly can be sued.

Your town ought to invest in speed bumps (as much as I hate them) or traffic calming devices for speed control if they feel they can't do a speed enforcement detail on a road that is habitually speeded upon.
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Old 05-02-2007, 11:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scankid2591
I should forward this to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office. I've asked officers before why they don't patrol on our street for the 90 mph speeders (no joke) that fly down our street day and night. They said, "We could get sued (or held liable)."
What a bunch of idiots. I would get that in righting and if someone dies because of a speeder then give that to the family and let them sue the county for not doing their job (and baiscally refusing to do it.)
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Old 05-03-2007, 8:13 AM
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Police chases SUCK! They are almost never necessary; and more than should be the case innocent bystanders end up injured or killed!

The kid was driving on a suspended license / and was possibly speeding - he hadnt just robbed or shot someone! The officers knew exactly who he was and where he lived - they knew what he had or hadnt done - instead of pursuing in unsafe conditions they could and SHOULD have called off the chase went to the kids house and waited for him to show up!

Getting a suspended driver off the streets isnt as important as all the innocent bystanders lifes, the officers lifes, nor the suspended drivers!

Officer - "let me have him" - perfect example of the adrenaline that too often controls an officers actions! You see it all the time in police beatings and chase type videos!

I guess we have but one intelligent judge - John Paul Stevens - "The risk inherent in justifying unwarranted police conduct on the basis of unfounded assumptions are unacceptable, particularly when less dramatic measures ... could have avoided such a tragic result,"
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Old 05-03-2007, 9:09 AM
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Justice Stevens' dissent sounds like it was written by an anti-cop nut job.

I think the Court should have simply held that the PIT maneuver is not "deadly force."
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Old 05-03-2007, 9:46 AM
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Hey Go-24, next time use the whole qoute.

Quote:
"Let me have him, my car's already tore up," Scott says on the tape.
By using only the partial quote you clearly showed where your intentions lie.
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Old 05-03-2007, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingwolf
Hey Go-24, next time use the whole qoute.



By using only the partial quote you clearly showed where your intentions lie.
Exactly...

It was probably said over the radio by a supervisor to PIT him. So he said well let me have him since my car is tore up. That makes sence.
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Old 05-03-2007, 12:32 PM
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Thumbs down His choice !

Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
Police chases SUCK! They are almost never necessary; and more than should be the case innocent bystanders end up injured or killed!

The kid was driving on a suspended license / and was possibly speeding - he hadnt just robbed or shot someone! "
His choice to run. Now, HE pays. End result HIS fault, no one ELSES!!! Enough said!
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Old 05-03-2007, 1:02 PM
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Clearly you are ignorant of the facts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
Police chases SUCK! They are almost never necessary; and more than should be the case innocent bystanders end up injured or killed!
There are scores (perhaps hundreds) of pursuits in the US daily. Almost none result in innocents injuries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
Officer - "let me have him" - perfect example of the adrenaline that too often controls an officers actions! You see it all the time in police beatings and chase type videos!
As was pointed out already, misrepresentation of the facts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
I guess we have but one intelligent judge - John Paul Stevens - "The risk inherent in justifying unwarranted police conduct on the basis of unfounded assumptions are unacceptable, particularly when less dramatic measures ... could have avoided such a tragic result,"
You are not a judge, therefore clearly not qualified to make this assessement.
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Old 05-03-2007, 1:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SLWilson
His choice to run. Now, HE pays. End result HIS fault, no one ELSES!!! Enough said!
And when an innocent bystander dies because of a chase; no big deal; just blame the supposed bad guy; it's all his fault; the law had not other available options.

flyingwolf - Yes my opinion/intentions on the issue of chases are very clear - in most instances; I am totally against them!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyC
You are not a judge, therefore clearly not qualified to make this assessement.
Those were the words of the supreme court judge; not mine! So the judge was not qualified to make an assessment? It's common sense! If I as an officer know suspect A, I know where suspect A lives, I witnessed suspect A speeding, they flee when I light them up; do I pursue or do I weigh the options? Its my opinion as well as the desenting judge, that the potential results of a chase are not worth it in that particular case!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyC
Clearly you are ignorant of the facts.
I am ignorant of the facts? NO, actually I have done extensive research on police chases - I know the facts! Hundreds of people die every year as a direct result of police chases; many of those are innocent bystanders; a number of others are officers doing the chasing. IMO just one innocent persons death is one too many; "particularly when less dramatic measures ... could have avoided such a tragic result" and that is almost ALWAYS the case - a chase is seldom a necessity!

Is the potential to cause bodily harm and/or death to innocent bystanders, ones self, or the suspect; not to mention any property damage really worth a capture? Again most often it NEVER is!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyC
misrepresentation of the facts.
Really? I am reading and intrepreting exactly what was written; you and who ever assumed something else; want to read 'into' what was written and 'assume' some points. Analyse what is in front of you - the article - and nothing more.

"The officer radios his supervisor, requesting permission to use potentially deadly force to stop Harris. 'Let me have him, my car's already tore up,' Scott says on the tape."

The article does not say, as another poster insinuated, that the supervisor ok'd deadly force and that the officer with a damaged car volunteered; how can you assume thats what happened? What it says is that the officer called in requesting the use of deadly force and that he wanted to get at the suspect! It is tough to read into tone; but I have enough knowledge to make an educated assumption that the officer was very heated!
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Last edited by Go-24; 05-03-2007 at 1:39 PM..
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Old 05-03-2007, 2:21 PM
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Still at it, huh?

He asked to "get at the suspect", as you put it, because his car was already damaged from being hit by the suspect in the shopping center parking lot. Why damage another patrol car via the PIT maneuver when his was already damaged. Stop twisting and manipulating things to serve your own agenda.

Also, when you throw on the lights to pull over a speeder and he takes off on you like a rocket, how are you supposed to know why he's running? Yes, most of them run for stupid reasons i.e. suspended license, no insurance, but maybe he's running because he just robbed a 7/11 20 minutes ago and that's why he thinks you are pulling him over. Maybe he's running because he's a wanted person. You just don't know.

But why am I trying to reason with you.
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Old 05-03-2007, 2:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
Analyse what is in front of you !
You should have taken your own advice in the health inspector thread.

And the word is analyze.

"would you like fries with that?"
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Last edited by crashcrew; 05-03-2007 at 2:53 PM..
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Old 05-03-2007, 3:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24
And when an innocent bystander dies because of a chase; no big deal; just blame the supposed bad guy; it's all his fault; the law had not other available options.
Sad to say that it does happen (just a couple of weeks ago here in Houston as a matter of fact), BUT, more people are hurt or die in their own tubs every year than innocent people are accidentally killed in Police pursuits. Does that mean we need to outlaw bathing?

And yes, these accidents are completely the fault of the people running. All they have to do is pull over and stop for the police in the first place. It is as simple as that, period.
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Old 05-03-2007, 3:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Go-24


If I as an officer know suspect A, I know where suspect A lives, I witnessed suspect A speeding, they flee when I light them up; do I pursue or do I weigh the options? Its my opinion as well as the desenting judge, that the potential results of a chase are not worth it in that particular case!
Go to suspect A's house and say he was speeding. All he has to do is say I was not driving. I know someone personally that ran from the cops (an old guy) because he was drunk. They did not chase him. They come knocking on the door and he is at home eating shrimp. They try to say something about it. He says someone else had my truck. They said who he said some guy and he ran into the woods. They couldn't do anything about it because they couldn't prove he was driving. So that does not always work.
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Old 05-03-2007, 5:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crashcrew
You should have taken your own advice in the health inspector thread.

And the word is analyze.

"would you like fries with that?"
Crashcrew, I did analyze what was provided in the HI thread! The video! Everyone else wanted to assume what happened on a previous day; without any evidence! Same here; people want to assume something occurred in a certain fashion instead of reading the text as it was presented.

And the bathtub analogy is not applicable; while some of those incidents might have been preventable most of if not all of those were a result of a necessity - bathing. Police chases are seldom out of necessity!

And enough of the BS Crashcrew; it isn't helping your cause any. I have no doubts at all that my educational background would more than stack up against yours! I don’t belittle you for having an opposing opinion; don’t do it to me!
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Old 05-03-2007, 8:03 PM
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[QUOTE=Go-24]And when an innocent bystander dies because of a chase; no big deal; just blame the supposed bad guy; it's all his fault; the law had not other available options.
[QUOTE]

Not true. If an innocent bystander is killed or injured it IS a big deal. But, again, the FLEEING suspect gets the blame. The make a CHOICE to run. THEY pay the consequences.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm NOT in favor of chases. I'd rather that there was NEVER a chase. But, when a person MAKES A CHOICE to flee, police have an obligation to catch them IF it can be done as safely as possible.

Granted, a hundred mile an hour chase is NEVER safe for ANYONE. The fleeing suspect, the police officer OR the general public. I've been there. Done that. It is NO fun at all. Won't ever do it again. Retired from THAT type of work in 2002.....

Maybe one day the technology will be in place to allow police to DISABLE a car that refuses to yield BEFORE the chase starts !!!

But until that day gets here, police have a duty to apprehend....

Steve
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