What is qualified immunity?
The doctrine provides that a police officer can’t even be put on trial for using excessive force unless the person suing proves that:
1. the evidence shows or could convince a jury that the officer used excessive force; and
2. the officers should have known they were violating “clearly established” law, because a prior court case had already deemed similar police actions to be illegal.
This two-part test means that even if a court finds that the officer used excessive force, it will grant immunity if the facts don’t match an earlier case finding the same conduct to be illegal.
The “clearly established” law requirement makes it hard to win against the police, Reuters found, because courts are increasingly requiring a nearly identical case to use as precedent—and a court can almost always find or make up a factual difference between the case it’s reviewing and an earlier case.