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Police Chases: More Deadly Than a Speeding Bullet?

NCJ Number
Trial Volume: 33 Issue: 12 Dated: (December 1997) Pages: 52-54,57,60
M Avery
Date Published
5 pages
The U.S. Supreme Court has determined police vehicular pursuits that result in a collision not intended by the pursuing police officer do not violate an injured party's fourth amendment rights; therefore, victims of high-speed police chases must argue their substantive due process rights have been violated in order to assert a constitutional claim.
Sharp divisions exist among circuits about the standard of proof required to prove a substantive due process violation. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly demonstrated its distaste for substantive due process claims. Although plaintiffs have been somewhat successful in litigating police pursuit claims on negligence grounds, judicial hostility to constitutional claims runs high. The experience of the law enforcement community demonstrates high-speed police pursuits are inherently dangerous, are likely to end in a collision, and are often initiated for trivial reasons. The following points are paramount in informing judges of the background against which police chases must be evaluated: (1) balance law enforcement objectives against risks to lives and safety; (2) consider empirical studies that indicate high-speed police pursuits are unjustifiably dangerous; (3) subject high-speed police pursuits to the same scrutiny applied to the use of deadly force; and (4) recognize suspects fleeing the police are usually not hardened criminals. Experts are essential in police misconduct cases to assess the intent of police officers involved in high-speed pursuits. 22 notes