SCOTUS Expands Police Use of Deadly Force In High Speed Chase

In the case of Plumhoff v Rickardthe SCOTUS expands police use of deadly force when involved in high speed chases.  In this case, officers were pursuing a vehicle in a high speed chase.  In attempt to stop the vehicle, officers fired multiple rounds into the vehicle, hitting the driver and passenger and contributing to their respective deaths.  The Court held that the driver’s actions (driving at speeds excess of 100 mph and passing more than twenty four vehicles) were reckless and posed a threat to public safety, thus, the officers’ action was not unreasonable and not in violation of the fourth amendment.

Also the Court found, even if the officers’ actions violated the 4th amendment,  the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because the did not violate any clearly established law.   In order to avoid the qualified immunity defense, the plaintiff would have had to established that the officers violated a statutory or constitutional right  that was clearly established at the time of the challenged act.  The Court relied on prior decisions that have held were an officer shot at a fleeing vehicle to prevent possible harm, there is no clearly established law precluding that conduct.