White v. Pauly

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: January 9, 2017
  • Case #: No. 16-67
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether an officer, who arrives late to an ongoing police action and, after having witnessed shots being fired at fellow officers, shoots and kills the armed assailant without first issuing a warning violates the fourth amendment thereby disqualifying him from immunity from liability?

Petitioner, a police officer who shot and killed Respondent was sued for violating Respondent’s Fourth Amendment rights by Respondent's estate and brother. Respondent’s brother had been allegedly driving drunk earlier that evening when two women spotted him and called the police. Two officers and Petitioner took the call, but by the time they arrived Respondent’s brother had already driven back to Respondent’s house. The two officers decided to go to Respondent’s house. After they arrived, an altercation broke out and Petitioner was radioed. Petitioner arrived just in time to hear one of the brothers shout, “We have guns.” He observed Respondent’s brother fire his shotgun out of the back door and then saw Respondent point a gun directly at his position. Petitioner reacted by shooting Respondent to death. Respondent’s estate and brother sued claiming that Respondent’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force was violated. The district court denied Petitioner’s motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. Subsequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed holding that a jury could have found that Petitioner unreasonably used deadly force. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The Court determined that Petitioner had not violated the law because it was reasonable for an officer who arrives late to an ongoing police action to assume that the proper police procedures have been followed by the officers on site, such as proper identification. 

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