The Department of Justice has joined a class action civil suit against the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department that alleges deputies have used stun guns in an “excessive, cruel, and inhumane” manner, depriving inmates and detainees of their rights. While it isn’t the same as filing criminal brutality charges against the department and deputies involved, it could serve to usher some major change in the way the department uses their taser weapons.
According to this report from the Columbus Dispatch, the lawsuit was filed by the Ohio Legal Rights Service on behalf of many prisoners having been held in the local jail and having been victims of stun gun use. The suit outlines several instances where prisoners were tased unnecessarily and not according to protocol.
According to the suit, the department used Tasers 180 times between January 2008 and May 2010. While nearly all of these instances were said to have been appropriate by the Sheriff’s Department itself, the suit states that many times they were used when there was “no threat of violence or harm”.
Among the examples given were of a pregnant female prisoner being tased after failing to remove a toe ring when her hands were slippery. Also, a twenty four year old woman was tased after refusing to be forcibly strip searched when male deputies were present. Her offense? Driving without a license.
While procedures and policies vary slightly from department to department, controversy surrounding the use of stun guns by law enforcement is nothing new. Just this week in California, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled excessive force was used on a man stopped for a seatbelt violation.
While it’s understandable that police and jail officials have these weapons, they should only be deployed in extreme cases. Often times, we find, when there is clear evidence of excessive force, criminal charges against a defendant will be dropped.
Charges like resisting arrest and disorderly conduct often accompany use of force actions by police. These sorts of crimes are very broad in definition, meaning they can be applied to many situations—all far different from one another.
If you’re facing criminal charges and believe the police acted with unnecessary force, or if you are facing charges and you aren’t sure how to handle them, we can help. Contact our offices today for a consultation on your case.