If you’re driving along a Texas roadway and notice a police car flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, you might feel anxious or worried as you safely pull to the side of the road. How much more terrifying, however, to be on foot and have a K9 unit chasing you down and using force to apprehend you. Police dogs are highly trained to obey, including when a handler gives a “chase” or “attack” command.
Police dogs can inflict serious harm. If police took you into custody in a situation where they used the force of a K9 unit against you, you might wonder whether the actions were justified. The use force with a police dog is like the use of force with a police officer. Certain criteria must exist for actions of force to be lawful.
Acceptable K9 force when a serious crime has been committed
Serious crimes may merit the use of force in a police dog. However, a police dog handler must have reasonable suspicion that you are committing or have committed a serious crime to command force against you. If police believe you are posing a safety threat to others, they may use K9 force.
Force is also lawful regarding police dogs if police believe you are resisting arrest or are trying to flee the scene. Additional issues may be relevant, such as if a suspect is armed.
Potential defense strategies
If an individual is facing criminal charges in Texas in a case where police used K9 force to apprehend him or her, a solid defense strategy may begin with requesting a copy of the dog’s training records. A prestigious training background demonstrates the likelihood that the dog in question would only use force when necessary. If a defendant has suffered injuries due to K9 force and believes that police unlawfully initiated that force, he or she may seek a dismissal of the case.
It might also be possible for a person to file a personal injury claim in civil court for damages suffered under K9 force. Many law enforcement officers, especially those who are K9 handlers, believe that using dog force often helps prevent injury to a suspect, which may have otherwise occurred if a police officer used force or chased a person. They say a person will often stop running as soon as a dog starts chasing them, which then brings the chase to a halt, usually without injury.
Know your rights and how to defend them
If you’re facing criminal charges in Texas, whether your case involves a K9 unit or not, your rights include an opportunity to present a defense. The more you know about state laws regarding protocol officers must follow when making an arrest, the better able to craft a defense you might be. It’s helpful to seek experienced guidance and support rather than trying to face charges on your own.