Supreme Court Adopts the Shocks the Conscience Standard in the Context of Vehicular Police Pursuits in County of Sacramento v. Lewis, The
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Lentz, Carrie E.
INTRODUCTION|Law enforcement officers routinely use their cruisers to pursue individuals who disobey the law and fail to stop when so signaled. To police officers, the pursuit of suspects is both a necessary and instinctual response to lawless behavior. At times, a police pursuit may result in the injury or death of the driver/pursuee, a passenger, or an innocent pedestrian. Individuals injured as a result of a police pursuit generally seek relief from the law enforcement officers and municipalities involved under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 ("section 1983") to enforce the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process. Clause. These section 1983 proceedings have caused uncertainty for the circuit courts, as they have struggled to determine what standard of culpability to apply in a claim for damages in the context of a police pursuit based upon substantive due process. Recently, in County of Sacramento v. Lewis, the United States Supreme Court held that the appropriate standard in assessing a section 1983 claim in the context of a police pursuit is the "shocks the conscience" standard. In Lewis, sixteen-year-old Philip Lewis was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle that was being pursued by the police for failure to stop when so requested. For seventy-five seconds the motorcycle was pursued by Sacramento County Sheriffs Deputy James Everett Smith. The pursuit ended when the motorcycle tipped over and Deputy Smith's patrol car, traveling at a speed of forty miles per hour, skidded into Lewis and propelled him approximately...
32 Creighton L. Rev. 1263 (1998-1999)
Creighton University School of Law