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High Court Watches Video, Rules for Police

Posted Apr 30, 2007 2:25 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer is not liable for trying to stop a motorist who leads police on a dangerous car chase, even though the officer reasonably expects his action will cause serious injury.

In an 8-1 decision, the court sided today with the officer who rammed a fleeing Cadillac, causing an accident that paralyzed the driver, the Associated Press reports.

The majority, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the police officer was immune from liability because he did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The court posted video of the chase on its Web site, which “tells quite a different story” than the one told by the driver, Scalia wrote.

“Far from being the cautious and controlled driver the lower court depicts, what we see on the video more closely resembles a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of serious injury,” he wrote.

Writing on SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston says the opinion "appears to validate as 'reasonable' any intentional police tactic of ending the chase by causing a wreck."

Justice John Paul Stevens was the dissenter in the case, Scott v. Harris.

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