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Legal Commentary: Roadblocks, Can Police Liability Arise From Use Of? (From Crime to Court: Police Officer's Handbook, P 9-10, 1989, Joseph C Coleman)

NCJ Number
J C Coleman
Date Published
2 pages
On March 21, 1989, the Supreme Court held that stopping a fleeing motorist by use of a roadblock constituted a seizure of that person.
It was further determined that liability for the police in a civil rights suit depended on whether or not the use of the roadblock in the circumstances and in the manner in which it was set up was reasonable. The Supreme Court decision was based on an incident in which police were pursuing a suspect in a stolen vehicle. After a 20 mile high-speed chase, the suspect slammed into a police roadblock and was killed. His estate sued, alleging that the roadblock was set up in such a manner that it was hidden from the suspect's view and therefore constituted the unreasonable use of deadly force. The lower court dismissed the suit on the ground that the use of a police roadblock did not constitute a seizure of the person. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the case by the lower courts.