Stun guns have an undeserved reputation for being safe simply because they are intended to be non-lethal weapons. But just because someone might not die from a Taser, doesn’t mean he or she cannot suffer severe injuries. Police officers have a responsibility to use all weapons in a controlled, thoughtful manner. But government liability lawyers in Riverside know all too well the prevalence of police brutality and excessive force violations. Contact a personal injury lawyer right away if you or a loved one has sustained injuries from an unwarranted Taser attack.
The specifics of a government liability lawsuit can depend on the exact classification of the victim, such as whether he or she was a suspect, detainee, or convict. Since suspects and detainees haven’t been convicted, the use of excessive force or punishment against them could be considered a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee the right of due process. On the other hand, the unwarranted use of Tasers against convicts who have already received due process would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment.
Tasers can cause severe injuries in several ways. First, hand-held stun guns work by shooting two barbed electrodes at the victim. The barbs penetrate the skin, causing a painful wound that requires careful treatment, especially if the barbs penetrated near a sensitive body part like the neck or face. Second, the electrodes deliver up to 50,000 volts of electricity to the body, which disrupts the body’s natural and necessary functions. Third, the jolt of 50,000 volts causes the person to fall to the ground, and to violently and uncontrollably spasm. All of these actions can cause serious injuries, including the following:
- Penetrating wounds (safe removal of barbs requires specialized medical knowledge)
- Skin burns
- Cardiac disease
- Cardiac arrest and sudden death
- Mental health crisis (possibly exacerbated by substance abuse)
- Head trauma
- Eye injuries
- Testicular torsion
- Torn tendons and ligaments
- Organ damage
Arguably, the possible effects on a pregnant woman are even more frightening. There is a connection between the use of stun guns on pregnant women and miscarriage. Another troubling aspect of indiscriminate Taser use is the fact that it’s impossible for a police officer to know if a person has a pre-existing health condition. A stun gun can interfere with a life-saving pacemaker, for example, yet many officers won’t think twice before using a “non-lethal” stun gun, even when the situation does not warrant it.