CA4: Handcuffing a compliant child at school violated 4A, but officer gets QI

A police officer’s handcuffing a compliant child after a discussion in the school office violated the child’s Fourth Amendment rights. The event was long past with no risk of violence being shown by the child by the time that happened. The law, however, wasn’t clearly established by that time, and the officer gets qualified immunity. E.W. v. Dolgos, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 3245 (4th Cir. Feb. 12, 2018):

Conversely, it was not obvious that Dolgos could not handcuff E.W. here. Although precedent supports the conclusion that Dolgos acted unreasonably and violated E.W.’s Fourth Amendment rights, it did not put Dolgos on sufficient notice that her conduct was unlawful. Indeed, this Court previously stated that the use of handcuffs would “rarely” be considered excessive force when the officer has probable cause for the underlying arrest. See Brown, 278 F.3d at 369. And the parties do not point us to any controlling authority sufficiently similar to the situation Dolgos confronted. In fact, E.W. chiefly relies on Graham to define the clearly established law. Without more, we cannot conclude that it would have necessarily been clear to a reasonable officer that handcuffing E.W. would give rise to a Fourth Amendment violation. We emphasize, however, that our excessive force holding is clearly established for any future qualified immunity cases involving similar circumstances.

Accordingly, we conclude that E.W.’s right not to be handcuffed under the circumstances of this case was not clearly established at the time of her seizure. As such, Dolgos is entitled to qualified immunity, and we affirm the district court as to the § 1983 claim.

This entry was posted in § 1983 / Bivens, Arrest or entry on arrest, Qualified immunity. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.