What is Qualified Immunity?
Qualified Immunity is what tells police officers they can shoot first and think later.
When a police officer or government official assaults us or violates our constitutional rights, Qualified Immunity is the legal shield they hide behind.
Qualified Immunity requires us to prove the officer knew their actions were illegal and prove that the officer knew which of our constitutional rights they were violating.
What does this mean?
If you are assaulted or violated by a police officer, even if you can prove that your constitutional rights were violated, you still have to prove the officer knew they were violating them. Cases of police brutality are routinely thrown out for this reason.
Qualified Immunity is what makes it nearly impossible to sue a police officer.
What Does This Have to Do with George Floyd?
George Floyd’s murderer(s) likely believed they stood behind the legal shield of Qualified Immunity. It is possible they would have made different decisions that day had they believed their actions had consequences.
Qualified Immunity is what tells police officers they are above the law.
Will the Supreme Court Overturn It?
The Supreme Court has a disturbing trend of overturning police brutality cases in favor of the police officer. Qualified Immunity is consistently upheld by the Supreme Court even when the victim has proven the officer knowingly violated their rights.
In fact, The Supreme Court just refused to reconsider Qualified Immunity cases in their next term.
What Can Be Done?
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity can be removed by legislation. As it happens, the murder of George Floyd prompted U.S. Representative Justin Amash to introduce exactly this legislation, entitled the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. If this bill passes and is either signed into law by President Trump or has enough support in Congress to overcome a veto, it will become law and Qualified Immunity will become a thing of the past.
What Can I Do?
Contact your representatives in Congress. If we apply enough pressure on them, we believe the Ending Qualified Immunity Act has a strong chance of passing both the House and the Senate. Less certain is whether President Trump will then sign the bill into law, but with enough support in Congress a veto can be overridden.