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Police Roadblock -- Can Civil Rights Liability Result?

NCJ Number
Crime to Court Dated: (October 1989) Pages: 1-3
J C Coleman
Date Published
3 pages
While the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the shooting of a fleeing felony suspect by law enforcement officers is an unreasonable seizure, another potential use of deadly force, the police roadblock, can be used lawfully by law enforcement officers to apprehend a fleeing felon.
The facts of Brower v. Inyo County, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 21, 1989 are discussed in detail. In Brower, a suspected felon was pursued at high speed for approximately 20 miles by a deputy sheriff. The sheriff radioed ahead to his fellow officers and asked that a roadblock be established. A roadblock was set up using a tractor-trailer to block both lanes of a two-lane highway. The suspected felon drove past a parked police vehicle with its lights on at a high rate of speed, slammed into the tractor-trailer rig, and was killed. The suspected felon's heirs brought suit against the county government employing the sheriffs, claiming that the county used unusual and unnecessary physical force in establishing the roadblock, thus violating the suspected felon's fourth amendment rights.