Prison Sentence Closes The Book On Area Police Chase

An area man was held accountable for his actions in a high-speed police chase that occurred in Lafayette last summer, but when are police officers held accountable for their conduct in similar situations?

U.S. District Judge Dee Drell sentenced 32-year-old Kevin Abshire, of Maurice, to 24 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered firearm. In June 2015, Mr. Abshire passed very close to a Lafayette Police Department officer who was directing traffic after an accident. When officers ordered him to pull over, Mr. Abshire accelerated. Officers pursued him, and Mr. Abshire eventually crashed in the Ridge Road area. After subduing him, officers found a shotgun in Mr. Abshire’s vehicle which turned out to be unregistered.

He must serve three years of supervised release after he completes his two-year prison term.

High-Speed Police Chase

Pursuits like these, which involve daylight chases through populated areas to apprehend non-violent criminals, are incredibly hazardous. In fact, in 1990, the Justice Department called high-speed police chases “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities.” The report also noted that far more people are injured or killed in these incidents than in officer-involved shootings. Yet despite this warning, and despite the fact that over 5,000 people have died in high-speed police chases in recent years, most law enforcement agencies have no policies in place to prevent or regulate these chases.

Clearly, police officers have a right to “get the bad guy” and they are not bound by ordinary traffic laws when they do so. However, it is equally as clear that officers have an obligation to protect and serve the people in the community, and a reckless high-speed police chase that results in injury or death seems contrary to that duty.

Therefore, there are limits on how far officers can go in their pursuits. Legally, there are basically two theories:

  • Policy Violation: Permanent written policies are rare, but they do exist. Furthermore, many dispatchers sometimes issue orders like “pursue with extreme caution.” A policy violation is evidence of negligence.
  • Extreme Recklessness: If officers engage in a high-speed police chase on a crowded freeway to apprehend a speeder, arguably they displayed a conscious disregard for the safety and property of others.

Although Louisiana’s constitution contains a waiver of sovereign immunity, which means it is possible to sue police officers and other government officials for negligence, special procedures and strict time deadlines often apply.

For prompt assistance with any negligence claim against any actor, contact an experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney from Hoffoss Devall today, because you have a limited amount of time to act.