Mullenix v. Luna

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Qualified Immunity
  • Date Filed: November 9, 2015
  • Case #: 14-1143
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 773 F.3d 712 (5th Cir. 2014).
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether an officer was entitled to qualified immunity when he shot and killed a driver to end a high-speed chase.

In 2010, a driver led police on an 18-minute chase at speeds over 85 miles per hour and threatened to shoot police if they did not abandon pursuit. In response to this chase and threats, as well as the belief that the driver was intoxicated, officers set up tire spike strips at 3 locations. In addition, one officer fired 6 shots at the driver as he drove under an overpass. The officer had not been trained in use of deadly force. The driver was killed after being hit by four of the shots and after his car hit the median and rolled. Decedent's family brought a 42 USC 1983 claim, alleging excessive use of force by the police.

The District Court denied the officer’s motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, stating there was a question as to whether the officer acted “recklessly” or as “a reasonable, trained peace officer would have acted in the same or similar circumstances.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed and concluded that the officer’s actions were unreasonable because an officer cannot “use deadly force against a fleeing felon who does not pose a sufficient threat of harm to the officer or others.”

The Supreme Court determined the Fifth Circuit erred in denying qualified immunity to the officer.

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