The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of appeals has ruled that police used excessive force when they used stun guns on a pregnant Washington state woman and an Hawaiian woman involved in a domestic dispute.
Neither woman was threatening the officers.
The first was simply refusing to sign a traffic citation and had told police she was pregnant before the officer stunned her three times in less than a minute.
The second was trying to get police to leave take their dispute with her husband outside her home to keep them from waking her children.
Neither woman can sue the officers, however, because the court ruled that the law was unclear at the time.
The ruling will influence how police use Tasers and other stun guns in the future, though. The court indicated that stun gun use is excessive force in situations where a person is not physically threatening police and there isn't risk of imminent harm.
Such has been the case in at least one stun gun incidents in Helena, Mont., over the summer. In one case police used a stun gun on a man running away from them. In another incident they used a stun gun on a transient who tried to steal a flag at the capitol. A third incident involving an altercation with police led to a man's death.
And there's the rub. Despite claims that stun guns are non-lethal, people do die after being shot with a Taser.
Let's hope the Ninth Circuit ruling will make police less eager to grab for that stun gun when other options are available.