On Monday, the Tenth Circuit issued Edward Casey v. City of Federal Heights. Casey alleged that he was tackled and Tasered in a Colorado parking lot while walking toward a courthouse to return a court file that he had improperly taken out to his car. Applying the Fourth Amendment, the Tenth Circuit first noted that removing the court file was a low-level misdemeanor, "not a severe crime." Nor was it a violent offense. Jared Massey's offense? Speeding, a low-level, non-violent misdemeanor. (Refusing to sign a ticket is not a separate crime; it simply allows an officer to arrest you for the original speeding offense.)
The court then said that the officer did not have reason to believe that Casey posed an immediate threat to anyone's safety. The fact that he was upset and argumentative in court a few minutes earlier was nothing out of the ordinary, and did not suggest dangerousness. Jared Massey being upset and argumentative when stopped for speeding? Nothing out of the ordinary, and not suggestive of violence. Check.
"Officer Sweet grabbed and then tackled Mr. Casey without ever telling him that he was under arrest. Nor did he give Mr. Casey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest. . . . [A] reasonable officer should, at a minimum, have ordered Mr. Casey to submit to an arrest or used minimal force to grab him while informing him that he was under arrest." Trooper McTaser not giving Massey a chance to submit peacefully to an arrest, and refusing to provide even a basic explanation? Check.
The court concluded:
"[I]t is excessive to use a Taser to control a target without having any reason to believe that a lesser amount of force — or a verbal command — could not exact compliance."Use of Taser without reason to believe that he couldn't exact compliance with a lesser amount of force, or a specific verbal command other than just yelling? Check.
Under Casey, before law enforcement hit the zapper for a non-violent misdemeanor, they'll actually have to communicate with people, you know, like tell them that they're under arrest. They'll also have to consider using lesser force or a verbal command first. Hope they remember how to do all that.