Mrs. Brand then turned to Ms. Velazco and asked for a phone so she could call 911. Ms. Velazco handed Mrs. Brand the home phone. Deputy Pardinas ordered Mrs. Brand to “drop the phone,” but she did not. Instead she announced she was dialing 911. Mrs. Brand began dialing when suddenly and without warning, Deputy Pardinas tased her. The tase caused Mrs. Brand to fall to the floor in “[h]orrible, excruciating” pain.
Deputy Pardinas ordered Mrs. Brand to lie flat on her stomach. Deputy Pardinas began “punching [her] back,” striking Mrs. Brand about three times in an attempt to get her to lie on her stomach. Mrs. Brand said she couldn’t lie flat because she was pregnant. She kept one of her legs “elbowed out” to protect her stomach. Deputy Pardinas kicked Mrs. Brand’s leg several times to get her into a fully prone position.
As far as Deputy Pardinas knew, Mrs. Brand was not suspected of any crime when the deputy deployed her taser. Mrs. Brand was not the subject of the arrest warrant. And although Mrs. Brand was eventually arrested by Deputy Casal for obstruction and cruelty to children in the third degree, these alleged offenses were based on conduct that occurred before Deputy Pardinas joined Deputy Casal at the front of the house. Deputy Pardinas did not see, and did not know about, the altercation between Mrs. Brand and Deputy Casal that led to the charges against Mrs. Brand.
7 Those charges do not therefore support the reasonableness of Deputy Pardinas’s use of force. See Rodriguez v. Farrell, 280 F.3d 1341, 1352–53 (11th Cir. 2002) (“We do not use hindsight to judge the acts of police officers; we look at what they knew . . . at the time of the act.”).
Second, Mrs. Brand did not pose any “immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others” when Deputy Pardinas tased her. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396, 109 S. Ct. at 1872. It is true Mrs. Brand was “extremely upset [and] agitated” that the officers would not get out of her house. But, under the Brands’ version of events—which we accept at this stage—Mrs. Brand was never violent or aggressive toward the officers. For example, Ms. Velazco reports that Mrs. Brand never even yelled. Indeed, Ms. Velazco testified that “[t]he only aggressive acts came from the officers.” Mrs. Brand was simply standing in her foyer, asking the officers to leave, holding a phone, and attempting to dial 911. The defendants point to the fact that Mrs. Brand disobeyed Deputy Pardinas’s order to “drop the phone.” But there was nothing dangerous about Mrs. Brand holding a phone in the first place, especially where she made clear she was using it only to dial 911. Her refusal to comply with the order to drop the phone did not pose any threat to the safety of the officers, and certainly was not a threat that would necessitate the use of a taser with no warning to Mrs. Brand. Cf. Fils v. City of Aventura, 647 F.3d 1272, 1288 (11th Cir. 2011) (“[R]esisting arrest without force does not connote a level of dangerousness that would justify a greater use of force.”).
Third and finally, Mrs. Brand was neither actively resisting arrest nor attempting to escape when Deputy Pardinas tased her. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396, 109 S. Ct. at 1872. By all accounts, she had not even been told she was under arrest at the time she was tased.
Based on the Brands’ account of the facts, we are persuaded that Deputy Pardinas “used force that was plainly excessive, wholly unnecessary, and, indeed, grossly disproportionate under Graham.” Lee, 284 F.3d at 1198. We therefore conclude that Deputy Pardinas’s tasing of Mrs. Brand constituted excessive force in violation of Mrs. Brand’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
CA11 holds that police can't tase someone for calling 911
CA11 holds that police can't tase someone (in this case a pregnant woman!) for calling 911. One wonders how this was even a question... but I digress: