As of this June, prison inmates are better protected against excessive force by jail officials. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that excessive force should be judged on an objective standard based on the facts and circumstances, not on the accused officer’s subjective assessment.
The case that brought the issue in front of the Supreme Court, Kingsley v. Hendrickson, had to do with an excessive force claim made by Michael Kingsley. Kingsley was arrested on drug charges in 2010 and detained pending trial where he refused to follow officer orders. During a struggle with guards related to his disobedience, Kingsley was tased and subjected to other rough guard tactics as his was moved to another cell—an action he claimed was excessive.
The Supreme Court agreed and overturned the lower court’s ruling that Kingsley had to prove the use of force was intentional, or at least reckless, to prove excessive force. According to the Supreme Court, the conduct only had to be proven “objectively unreasonable.”
What This Ruling Means for the Future
Because of this ruling, it will be much easier for inmates to bring claims of excessive force that happened within prison. It will also be easier specifically for pre-trial inmates to bring claims against jail officials related to excessive force, as it will mitigate the strong influence of the officer’s testimony on juror opinion.
This ruling will support inmates’ Fourteenth Amendment rights, as it enhances due process. This means that guards will need to objectively assess a situation before resorting to force, a precaution that will enhance prisoner safety. Moving forward, prisoners who have not yet been convicted will have better access to justice for harsh actions that violate due process. Plus, jails will be safer for the defendants still presumed innocent, and therefore not yet deserving of any punishment.
For those people suffering excessive force at the hands of jail officials, this ruling should help a lot. Now justice will be easier to access with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. If you feel that you or someone you love has been victim to excessive force by a law enforcement or jail official, you may have a case. An experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney will be able to best advise you and inform you of your rights. Consult Sean Hessler at Hessler Law today at (317) 886-8800 for a free consultation on your case.
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