The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that police officers are only allowed to deploy a Taser if the "objective facts" of a situation suggest a suspect is "an immediate threat."
Law enforecement officials are therefore no longer allowed to tase you for being uncooperative, acting weird or just because they think it's funny. (Okay, they probably weren't allowed to do that last one already, not to say that it hasn't happened.)
On average, over 40 people a year have died across the nation between 2001 and 2008 according to Amnesty International, often due to preexisting medical conditions that the high-voltage electricity exacerbates, such as heart problems.
A year ago, Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle was, according to court testimony, attempting to tase a prone Oscar Grant when instead he shot him dead. Based on this court ruling, even using a Taser on a suspect that's already pinned down by another officer would probably be illegal.
The original case was brought by Carl Bryan of Coronado, who was tased in the back by an officer who believed Bryan was behaving strangely following a routine traffic stop. Bryan sustain damage to his teeth and had to be hospitalized to get the Taser's metal points removed.
Bryan's lawsuit against the Coronado Police Department alleging excessive use of force in the incident can now proceed.
Jackson West agrees that he'd rather be tased than shot, but doesn't particularly trust police with either Tasers or guns.