SCOTUS Decision Gives Police More Protection in Deadly Force Situations Against Fleeing Suspects


A ruling by the Supreme Court on Monday offered police officers greater protection from lawsuits when having to use deadly force against fleeing suspects. 

In an 8-1 ruling, the Court rejected a lawsuit filed against Texas State Trooper Chadrin Lee Mullenix after the officer shot and killed a suspect, Israel Leija, Jr., who had led officers on a high-speed chase and vowed to shoot any officers that tried to stop him.

Trooper Mullenix engaged Leija's vehicle from atop a highway overpass with six rifle shots as the suspect sped past.

According to SCOTUSblog, "The Court granted Mullenix what is called 'qualified immunity' from the lawsuit, concluding that no binding court ruling had declared unconstitutional the specific situation that unfolded in this incident in March 2010." 

SCOTUSblog added, "Because the ruling was so closely focused on the fact of the car chase, it did not appear to have created any new law for judging fatal shootings by police in other encounters as they enforce laws."

In it's ruling, the Court "never found the use of deadly force in connection with a dangerous car chase to violate the Fourth Amendment, let alone to be a basis for denying qualified immunity.”

The sole dissenter, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, expressed concern over the ruling, stating that it promoted “a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing.”


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