The use of Tasers or stun guns by police officers in Florida has been the subject of much debate since their inception.
On the one hand, people in favor of the device argue that it deters individuals suspected of committing a crime from resisting officers and ultimately leads to less injury by the suspect.
Those against the use of Tasers in Florida point out the numerous injuries and deaths resulting from it’s use.
Once again in Fort Lauderdale, we have another case of an individual who was severely injured after being tasered. In this most recent case in which three a would-be burglary suspect who is alleged to have stolen no more than $75 from a laundromat and was otherwise obeying officer demands according to Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney William Moore. In fact by witnesses on the scene, the suspect had returned to the scene of the crime in response to officer direction. For some reason he was stunned which resulted in his being hospitalized in critical condition.
This is but one of countless cases in Florida according to Moore.
It wasn’t long ago that police chief Michael Mann resign following officers under his direction and control used a stun gun that resulted in the death of an individual suspected of committing a crime. Additionally criticism also ignited following an earlier case in Florida whereby law enforcement officers tasered an elderly gentleman who is not resisting arrest.
More recently was a case involving a Coconut Creek man who was tasered to death. Calvin read was allegedly tasered up to four times by officers. Adding to public outrage was the fact that officers involved were reluctant to reveal facts surrounding the suspect’s death.
Criminal lawyer William Moore, an attorney who is practiced in Fort Lauderdale for nearly 20 years poses the question as to whether or not the use of Tasers is to be considered reasonable as opposed to and excessive force in violation of our constitutional rights. Ramifications to police officers who unjustifiably use tasers rarely result in a finding of excessive force. Police officers are exonerated criminally and professionally in most cases. Furthermore, any civil remedy afforded by law seems to be nonexistent based on court rulings.
Civil liability for excessive force by use of Tasers.
What we need to consider is whether or not the use of a device that is viewed by police officers maybe more frequently used by trigger-happy officers who believe that such force is allowed by law. The fact is that where an officer believes that he will not be prosecuted were found to have committed wrongdoing when using such a dangerous weapon may become somewhat trigger-happy.
Courts are supposed to consider factors in evaluating whether a police officer’s use of Taser equipment was warranted and otherwise justified. The reasonableness of an officer’s actions are supposed to be adequately assessed. A determination is supposed to be made in accordance with suppose it strict guidelines which are:
The severity of a suspect’s crime, whether that suspect post an apparent threat to law enforcement or civilians and finally whether or not the criminal suspect attempted to resist apprehension.
Why then in so many cases do we see the split-second and incorrect snap decision of officers resulting in the tasering of a suspect. More importantly, why does it seem that only severe cases or even outrageous cases result in retribution to the officers that used a stun gun unreasonably and without justification.
According to attorney William R. Moore the courts are supposed to conduct a thorough investigation when evaluating whether or not the use of Taser equipment was justified.
The severity of crime is quite an important factor however lacks effectiveness when it is viewed in a manner that can be considered subjective to the officer (or what that officer may have thought). The fact is that a crime’s severity is often dismissed where a suspect resists an officer, is hostile or even argumentative. A determination as to justification is diluted where the standard is reduced to considering not the severity of the crime but instead in finding excessive force only in circumstances where the crime alleged is so minor that it wouldn’t have even warranted a citation.
William Moore claims that this doesn’t make sense as an act that doesn’t warrant a citation isn’t criminal.
Instead of evaluating the severity of an alleged criminal act courts have been criticized for reducing the criteria to finding excessive force only in circumstances where police officers were not even attempting to arrest a criminal suspect or whether based on the subjective belief of an officer that a criminal suspect MAY have posed a threat.
The use of Tasers seems to be supported by both lawmakers in the courts that interpret those laws as a necessary device rather than dangerous weapon and have effectively changed the criteria required in determining whether or not police officers used excessive force when deploying Taser equipment threat posed by criminal suspect.
The second criteria in determining the reasonableness or justification of Taser use by law enforcement in criminal investigations is a full evaluation of the threat posed by the Tasered suspect/victim.
Attorney William R. Moore claims that the second prong has all but been evaporated by the courts.
Broward County courts have found that a suspect’s refusal to show hands when ordered to do so was justification for deploying Tasers. Furthermore stun guns have been found reasonable and justified when the suspect was stopped for a traffic infraction.
Actively resisting law enforcement officers.
The application of this prong is considered laughable by criminal defense attorneys. This is because many courts, rather than making a determination as to whether or not a suspect resisted with violence have shown emphatically that the use of Taser equipment on a suspect is reasonable and justified where the individual has already been subdued, handcuffed, has been absolutely compliant with officer demands or unconscious.
According to attorney Moore, application of the criteria gets even worse. This is because police officers have been found to have acted reasonably and lawfully despite repeatedly tasering individual whereby that suspect was completely subdued yet feared of as being able to somehow pose a threat.
More information about the use of tasers by police officers in Florida can be found by viewing William Moore’s recent lecture on Taser lawsuits, statistics and governmental reports.
The William Moore criminal defense law firm is located in Broward County Florida. Our Fort Lauderdale office is located at One Financial Plaza, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394.
William Moore can be reached for comment by calling 954-523-5333.