Court Says Tasing Pregnant Woman Was OK

Don't want to sign a speeding ticket? You might get lit up.

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A Seattle woman refused to sign a speeding ticket. Despite her being pregnant, three cops thought tasing her would get that signing thing squared away and the court recently agreed

Three Seattle police officers were justified when they used a stun gun on a pregnant mother who refused to sign a traffic ticket, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a case that prompted an incredulous dissent.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to Seattle's African American Academy in 2004 when she was stopped for doing 32 mph in a school zone. She insisted it was the car in front of her that was speeding, and refused to sign the ticket because she thought she'd be admitting guilt.

Rather than give her the ticket and let her go on her way, the officers decided to arrest her. One reached in, turned off her car and dropped the keys on the floor. Brooks stiffened her arms against the steering wheel and told the officers she was pregnant, but refused to get out, even after they threatened to stun her.

The officers — Sgt. Steven Daman, Officer Juan Ornelas and Officer Donald Jones — then stunned her three times, in the thigh, shoulder and neck, and hauled her out of the car, laying her face-down in the street.

Brooks gave birth to a healthy baby two months later, but has permanent scars from the Taser. She sued the officers for violating her constitutional rights, and U.S. District Judge Richard Jones allowed the case to continue. He declined to grant the officers immunity for performing their official duties and said Brooks' rights were clearly violated.

But in a 2-1 ruling Friday, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Judges Cynthia Holcomb Hall and Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain held that the officers were justified in making an arrest because Brooks was obstructing them and resisting arrest.

The use of force was also justified because of the threat Brooks posed, Hall wrote: "It seems clear that Brooks was not going to be able to harm anyone with her car at a moment's notice. Nonetheless, some threat she might retrieve the keys and drive off erratically remained, particularly given her refusal to leave the car and her state of agitation."

They also noted that the force used wasn't that serious because the Taser was in "touch" mode rather than "dart" mode, which hurts more. They reversed the lower court's opinion and held that the officers were entitled to immunity from the lawsuit.

The officers' lawyers, Ted Buck and Karen Cobb, said the officers made the right decision under the circumstances they faced.

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