Excessive Force And Terry Stop


By Douglas I. Louison of Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff, LLP

The Federal Appeals Court reversed a verdict wherein a jury found in favor of the plaintiff who asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for an unlawful Terry search and excessive force. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant (a police officer) unlawfully stopped and searched him after the plaintiff gave a woman a ride because she was sick and that the defendant used excessive force in making the arrest.

The defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support liability. The defense claimed to have stopped and searched the plaintiff because: 1) he witnessed a known prostitute exit the plaintiff’s car at the prostitute’s “known haunt”; and 2) after seeing the defendant’s police cruiser, the plaintiff left the area quickly while appearing nervous.

The court held that a lawful Terry search could be conducted where a police officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, regardless of intent. The court reasoned that a reasonable police officer would have had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity based on what the defendant officer knew in this case.

Although the court believed that the plaintiff was badly treated, the court ordered that the jury verdict be vacated and remanded for entry of judgement in favor of the defendant because there could have been a lawful Terry search.

See, Bolton v. Taylor, U.S. Court of Appeals, Case No. 01-2227.

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