Ruling clarifies when officers in North Carolina can use Tasers

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Law enforcement officers across five states have a clearer understanding on when they can use conducted electrical weapons, like Tasers. This comes after a ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued in January.

The ruling clarifies when it is legal for officers to use Tasers. The ruling says resisting an officer’s commands does not give an officer the right to use a Taser on that person, unless there’s immediate harm to the officer.

Following that ruling, The North Carolina Justice Academy issued this memo to law enforcement departments:

“On January 11, 2016, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst which dramatically changes the legal landscape governing TASER use by officers. Effective immediately, TASER use as a pain compliance tool against a resisting subject is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment unless the police can articulate “immediate danger” to the officer apart from the fact of resistance alone.”

The ruling comes after a man in Pinehurst, N.C. died after a police officer deployed a Taser, according to court documents. Court documents also state the man was mentally-ill and was not cooperating with law enforcement officers.

The Burlington Police Department responded to this ruling.

Captain Brian Long says from now on, when officers are dealing with a suspect who is resisting arrest, officers will first have to engage in a physical, hands-on approach to arrest that suspect. Long says because of this, he thinks the number of injuries to officers will increase.