Would having a low blood sugar make you shoot someone?

Check out this opinion the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals just published: http://tinyurl.com/3oupqg2

The 8th Circuit remanded the case back to the District Court, saying the District Court should determine whether a police officer - who was experiencing a bad low and discharged his gun several times at a gas station - had the intent to effect a seizure under the Fourth Amendment when he fired his weapon. My guess is the District Court will find that the police officer was too out-of-it because of the low to have any sort of intent to do anything…

Interesting case. These are really unique constitutional arguments under the Fourth Amendment and qualified immunity under section 1983. I wonder if this case would eventually make its way up to the Supreme Court, after the District Court issues a new opinion on remand, and one of the parties appeals it to the 8th Cir. again. The issues are so unique that I bet the Supreme Court would agree to take it.

I agree with the 8th Circuit Appeals Court decision to remand the case back to the District Court. Intent, subjective or otherwise, should be considered in this case. If the officer indeed did have a severe BG low that caused his judgment to be so impaired that he discharged the gun in a situation in which he otherwise would not have done so, then the officer should be granted immunity.

That being said, (1) determining the officer’s true state of mind at the time of the incident should be carefully scrutinized, and (2) the officer’s personal responsibility leading up to the incident should also be considered.

From my point of view, during the time of the incident, it is very difficult to assess whether or not the officer had a significant low BGL, and if so, whether or not it was significant enough to create such a lapse of judgment. How is that measured? Did he have his BGL measured immediately after the incident? If someone is suspected to be under the influence of alcohol and is involved in a similar incident, a breathalyzer test is immediately administered to assess if the legal threshold of alcohol influence has been met or surpassed. However, there is no established threshold for low BGL. Such a threshold is different for each individual and can change for an individual in the same day. This poses a problem for the officer to prove that he was mentally impaired.

As for the officer’s personal responsibility leading up to the incident, if he is a diabetic and was aware earlier in the day that he was having difficulty with his BGLs, what degree of responsibility should the officer accept since he did not withdraw himself from duty? For example, if the officer was aware enough to eat a doughnut and drink a soft drink, shouldn’t he have also been aware enough to put his service revolver away and either do desk duty or go home?

Therefore, although I agree that immunity should not be ignored, I believe that the officer will have a difficult time remaining under that umbrella. You’re right though, Katie; it is a very interesting case!