Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Hot pavement, 2d degree burns

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Case: RUBIO v. LOPEZ (11th Cir., Aug. 30, 2011)

What happened: Police locked arrestee in hot police car while the police officers stood outside the car. Arrestee responded by kicking windows of police car. Police responded by pulling arrestee out of the car and holding him down on hot pavement while applying additional restraints to arrestee. As a result, arrestee received second degree burns on his chest and face from the hot pavement.

Decision: no liability for the police.

Interesting quote:

We conclude that not every reasonable officer in Lopez’s position would have known that restraining Rubio on the hot pavement violates the Fourth Amendment. While it is clear that an officer cannot use gratuitous force against an incapacitated arrestee, that broad principle does not apply with obvious clarity in this case and does not clearly establish that Lopez’s use of force was excessive. First, not every reasonable officer would have known that the pavement was so hot that it would burn someone’s skin. While it is common knowledge that black pavement gets hot, especially during a Florida summer afternoon, it is not common knowledge that the pavement will be injuriously hot: the temperature of the pavement can vary based on many factors, such as surrounding shade, recent weather, or the composition of the surface. Second, even if every reasonable officer would have known that the pavement in this case was burning hot, it is not clearly established that the Fourth Amendment requires an officer to stop restraining a suicidal arrestee on the hot pavement when he complains of being burned and resume the restraint process on a cooler surface. If the Fourth Amendment imposes such a requirement, we can see how a reasonable officer would not know about it. We therefore conclude that no broad principle in our case law clearly establishes that Lopez’s use of force violates the Fourth Amendment.

Court opinion:

Written by Burgers Allday

August 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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