LOS ANGELES – A federal appeals court ruled Monday that police in Seattle and Maui used excessive force in separate cases involving stun guns, deeming the jolts fired at a pregnant woman and a wife involved in a domestic dispute to be violations of the women’s constitutional rights.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judged the debilitating stun-gun blasts to be excessive because in neither case did the women pose any threat to the safety of the officers.
But the court, sitting in its full 11-judge forum used to decide important questions of law, granted immunity from prosecution to the police officers involved because the law governing stun-gun use wasn’t yet clear at the time of the 2004 and 2006 incidents.
Four of the 11 judges dissented in part, including Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who wrote that he was concerned that branding the use of stun guns as excessive force would lead police to use more dangerous methods to subdue those resisting arrest.
The women claimed their Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force had been violated.
Monday’s ruling by the San Francisco-based appeals court could lead to officers being denied immunity from prosecution in any future excessive-force stun-gun incidents.