The Supreme Court will decide whether the Constitution permits police to use deadly force against a fleeing motorist whose only suspected offense is speeding or reckless driving, reports the Washington Post. A Georgia police officer is appealing a ruling this year by the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. That court concluded that the officer acted unreasonably by ramming a fleeing speeder, causing a crash that left the driver paralyzed. The 11th Circuit, like a federal trial judge, ruled that the officer Timothy Scott had violated a clearly established constitutional rule and could personally be sued.
Scott’s appeal said the 11th Circuit conflicted with other appeals courts and “will have a chilling effect on seizures of all fleeing suspects across the nation” if the Supreme Court does not reverse it. It will be the first time the justices have reexamined the constitutional prerequisites for employing deadly force against unarmed fleeing suspects since 1985. In that case, which involved not a speeder but a suspected burglar, the court ruled that police may use deadly force only when they have good reason to believe someone will be killed or injured if they do not.