Graham v. Connor and Objective Reasonableness standard

Graham v. Connor1, was a United States Supreme Court case where the Court determined that an objective reasonableness standard should apply to a civilian’s claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of his person.

Graham v. Connor determine the legality of every use-of-force decision an officer makes. An officer must apply constitutionally appropriate levels of force, based on the unique circumstances of each case.

United States Supreme Court in this case held that determining the “reasonableness” of a seizure requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual… against the attempt at “countervailing” and under the guise of governmental interests, being at stake.

The Court outlined a non-exhaustive list of factors for balancing an individual’s rights and an officer’s: the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

Supreme Court of United States cautioned, the “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

Supreme Court of United States also reinforced, as in other Fourth Amendment contexts… the ‘reasonableness’ inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are ‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.

However, Supreme Court of United States rejected the notion that the judiciary could use the Due Process Clause instead of the Fourth Amendment in analyzing excessive force claims: Because the Fourth Amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against this sort of physically intrusive governmental conduct, that Amendment, not the more generalized notion of ‘substantive due process,’ must be the guide for analyzing these claims.

  1. 490 U.S. 386 (1989). []