Tasers are touted as a less dangerous method for subduing potentially combative suspects. Yet they can cause significant bodily harm, especially when overly aggressive law enforcement agents misuse them. Police officers who overstep the bounds of the law can and should be held accountable for the harm they do. The personal injury attorneys at Christensen Law want to help you pursue justice.
We have always been champions of the underdog, unafraid to take on the government to protect clients deprived of their civil rights by law enforcement. We believe police officers are not above the law and are here to see they are held accountable for their wrongdoing. If you’ve been injured because a law enforcement agent misused a Taser in Michigan, contact us today for a free consultation and tell us more.
How Do Tasers Work?
Tasers are relatively small, handheld devices that can deliver a strong electric shock. When an officer pulls the trigger, a compressed gas cartridge inside the Taser breaks open. The gas pressure builds behind two probes. In a split second, these barbed probes shoot through the air, trailed by wires attached to the Taser, and hook into a target’s skin or clothing. Each trigger pull can result in a five-second burst of electric current. The shock delivered by a Taser can paralyze the central nervous system and subdue a person long enough for an officer to make an arrest.
Most Tasers can deploy two probes capable of delivering 50,000 volts of electricity over a distance of 15 to 30 feet. Certain devices can also be placed against a suspect’s skin, giving what is sometimes called a “drive stun.” The shock typically isn’t paralyzing, but it does cause pain and is used to get a potential suspect to follow an officer’s orders.
Are Tasers Regulated by Law?
Michigan law allows law enforcement and peace officers to use Tasers and stun guns if they receive training in their uses, effects, and risks. The Director of the Department of Corrections, County Sheriff, Chief of Police, or Director of the Public Safety Department must provide written approval for employees to possess and use Tasers or similar portable weapons.
Lawyers in police misconduct cases often cite Section 1983 under Title 42 of the United States Code to defend injured clients. This law enables someone to take legal action when a government official violates their civil rights. Police brutality and excessive force cases fall under Section 1983.
When is the Appropriate Time to Use a Taser?
Law enforcement officers may only deploy Tasers when they feel the circumstances of a situation require the use of reasonable force. Determining what is “reasonable” versus “excessive” can be a matter of interpretation. Law enforcement agents should evaluate the threat a potential suspect poses to the safety of the public and other officers. If the individual acts erratically, is uncooperative, or makes threats, using a Taser may be warranted, but only if the force is reasonable in the circumstances.
Reasonable Force vs. Taser Abuse
There is a fine line between reasonable and excessive force. Law enforcement officers are tasked with maintaining public safety. But not all situations require the use of force. Officers who use a Taser abusively violate a person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
In Taser abuse cases, a Michigan court typically considers the following:
- The severity of the alleged crime a person was committing when the Taser was deployed
- The threat the suspect posed to public safety
- The resistance the suspect offered
Common Examples of Taser Abuse
Cases of Taser abuse are not always black and white. Here are some questions to ask to determine whether an officer’s use of a Taser verged on abuse:
- Was the alleged suspect verbally or physically uncooperative?
- Did law enforcement give the suspect warning before deploying the Taser?
- Was the suspect already restrained?
- Was the Taser deployed multiple times?
Can a Taser Kill You?
Statistics about Taser usage tell a grim story. An investigative story published in USA Today found that police use of Tasers may have contributed to more than 500 deaths in the U.S. since 2010.
High-profile cases of fatal Taser-related incidents have made headlines in recent years, with causes attributed to police negligence, poor training, racial profiling, and weapon confusion.
Types of Taser Injuries
Tasers are often called a safer, non-lethal means for subduing agitated individuals. However, the electric shock from a taser can cause significant injuries such as:
- Vision loss
- Soft tissue damage
- Infection from the barbs
Tasers can also significantly injure individuals with existing medical conditions. Those with heart problems can potentially suffer cardiac arrest. Taser deployment can also cause secondary injuries like broken bones when a stunned person falls and hits the ground. Taser lawsuits have also involved pregnant women who experienced miscarriages after being tased.
Who Can Legally Own or Use a Taser?
In Michigan, it is legal for the public to purchase Tasers and similar weapons if they:
- Have a valid concealed pistol license (CPL)
- Passed a Taser safety course
- Have an active tracking system on the device traceable to the buyer and when it was first discharged
- Legal grounds to deploy the Taser (e.g., proportional self-defense)
What to Do If You Suspect Taser Abuse from Police?
Were you injured because a law enforcement official misused a taser or deployed a taser without adequate cause? If so, they may have violated your legal rights. Although you may be hesitant to go up against law enforcement, the personal injury attorneys at Christensen Law can fight for you.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney in Michigan Help Me?
No one deserves to be abused, violated, or punished by a police officer. At Christensen Law, our legal team takes an unwavering stance against injustice. If you believe you are the victim of Taser abuse by a law enforcement agent, reach out to an experienced Michigan personal injury lawyer from our firm. We can identify your legal options for pursuing justice and valuable compensation for your injuries and the violation of your Constitutional rights.
You owe it to yourself and your community to seek justice following police abuse. Contact one of our four Michigan offices today for a free case review.