The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow for common sense on Monday when the justices ruled 8-1 that police did not violate the Constitution when they ran a Georgia teenager off the road during a high-speed chase.
“A police officer’s attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatens the lives of innocent bystanders does not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority.
Victor Harris was 19 when he fled from a March 2003 traffic stop in Coweta County, Ga. The cops pursued and the nighttime chase reached speeds of 90 mph.
Sheriff’s Deputy Timothy Scott eventually rammed the back of Harris’s black Cadillac, causing the driver to lose control and careen down an embankment. Harris was paralyzed in the accident and sued Mr. Scott, claiming the police violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Harris won the right to pursue his lawsuit in the lower courts. But Monday’s ruling ends his efforts to collect damages from the taxpayers.
Harris’ attorneys had claimed the police overreacted. But the chase was captured by a video camera mounted in one of the police cruisers. That evidence apparently convinced the justices that law enforcement officials acted reasonably to prevent injury to bystanders.
“We are happy to allow the videotape to speak for itself,” Justice Scalia wrote after the court posted the video on its Web site.
Guaranteeing the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment must be of paramount concern to the court. But the argument that it is a violation of the Bill of Rights for police to take action against a driver who has made the choice to endanger others by fleeing at high speeds is ridiculous.
The justices got this one right.