Sheriff’s Deputy Hits And Kills Fleeing Suspect
The man was running away from a DUI stop on foot when a San Mateo County Sheriff’s vehicle plowed into him.
Officers were about to take the man, identified only as a 26-year-old Hispanic male, into custody after he allegedly failed field sobriety tests. Suddenly, the man fled the scene on foot across State Highway 101. As he ran, an unidentified deputy failed to stop and hit the man with his squad car. CHP Officer Art Montiel said the deputy was “a little shocked” yet uninjured. The Hispanic man died at the scene.
Investigators are still looking into the case. No charges or disciplinary actions are pending at this time.
Police Chase Injuries
Reckless police shootings regularly dominate the headlines. Yet every year, reckless police chases kill far more people. Official immunity, a doctrine which some people consider outdated, often shields officers from liability in shooting cases. Sovereign immunity, a similar rule, shields them in police chase cases. Both these doctrines, especially sovereign immunity, have some holes. More on that below.
On the record, police officers usually justify high-speed chases and other reckless pursuits by saying they cannot selectively enforce certain laws. Off the record, they usually admit that the adrenaline rush which comes from “getting the bad guy” is often too powerful to resist.
To curb this inclination, and also because these chases are inherently dangerous, many law enforcement agencies have anti-chase policies. These rules make it easier to pierce the sovereign immunity shield and hold police officers responsible for chase injuries. More on that below as well.
The real tragedy may be that technology exists which could end high-speed chases once and for all. For example, shootable GPS tracking devices are widely available. Officers could attach one to a fleeing car and track down the suspect later. Yet mostly because of the aforementioned adrenaline rush, many agencies do not employ such advanced tools.
Most fleeing suspects later say that if police officers didn’t chase them, they would stop running away.
Sovereign immunity is a very old legal doctrine which first appeared in the Middle Ages. Back then, most people believed that kings were agents of God. Since the sovereign couldn’t make a mistake, the sovereign, and his agents, were immune from liability actions.
Today, this doctrine is much more limited, especially in some states. California has one of the weakest sovereign immunity laws in the country. In the Golden State, victims may bring claims against a government agency if:
- Negligent: As mentioned, most California law enforcement agencies have anti-chase policies. Violating a written or well-established unwritten policy is evidence of negligence. Furthermore, many chases are inherently negligent. For example, officers cannot completely ignore traffic laws. They cannot blow through red lights without looking or drive on the wrong side of the road, at least in most cases.
- Scope of Employment: This phrase is much broader than “official action,” another commonly-used phrase. For example, if officers don’t have probable cause to detain a suspect, a subsequent chase is probably not an “official action.” But the chase is firmly within the scope of employment.
Procedurally, a San Jose car accident attorney must normally file a notice of claim before they file legal paperwork in court. The notice of claim gives the state, county, or local government a chance to settle the claim quietly before it goes to court.
Rely on an Experienced Lawyer
Reckless police chases often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.