I was arrested and placed in the back of the cop car. They didn't put on my seat belt. They ran 7 red lights and went in speeds of 97 miles an hour on the freeway. When is it crossing the line? Is there anything I can do?

  • 2
    Was there a reason for running red lights and going 97 miles an hour on the freeway?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 14:56
  • 3
    To downvoters and close voters: there's a good question in here, even a very good one: what duty of care, or other duties, does a police officer (or the authority of which the officer is an agent) have to someone who is in the back of the car? Does it matter whether the person is under arrest? There have certainly been incidents in the US where people have been fatally injured, either demonstrably or allegedly while they were passengers in police vehicles.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 21:26
  • I submit that you can complain about it, but if your sole harm is it worried you then don't expect to get anything personally out of the complaint. No one is going to give you money or dismiss your charges.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Feb 2, 2020 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


There will be a local rule regarding what police have to do with a person in custody. Here are the rules for Seattle. The main relevant rule is that they must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the detainee. They must use seat belts, unless the vehicle does not have seat belts in the detainee area. Additionally, they are not to respond to routine calls while transporting a detainee, but they may may respond to a threat to life safety. Typically, high speed response indicates a threat and not a noisy dog complaint. There is no obligation to refrain from responding, nor is there a requirement to release detainees. I don't think there is a clear and bright line: it comes down to what an officer would (in light of department instructions) judge to be reasonable. The officer may be wrong and the department may be wrong in what is legally "reasonable", and this could come out as a result of lawsuits and Dept. of Justice investigations. You can file a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the DoJ, see here.


This sounds awfully similar to the case of Warren McCowan vs. Mark Morales & The City of Las Cruces, New Mexico, a/k/a Las Cruces Police Department (read by Uncivil Law) (D.C. No. 2:17-CV-00902-MLC-GJF)

Reckless driving and endangering (or rather: actually harming) an apprehended, complying person is, according to this precidential 10th Circut case, a violation of the 4th amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. As it was clearly established, it was enough to deny the officer qualified immunity from the excessive force claim. From the case document:

In this interlocutory appeal, Defendant Mark Moralez, a Las Cruces, New Mexico police officer, challenges the district court’s decision to deny him summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity from two of Plaintiff Warren McCowan’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims.


McCowan based his excessive-force claim on his assertion that Officer Moralez placed McCowan in the back seat of a patrol car, handcuffed behind his back and unrestrained by a seatbelt, and then drove recklessly to the police station, knowing his driving was violently tossing McCowan back and forth across the backseat. This rough ride, McCowan contends, injured his shoulders, after McCowan had advised the officer before the trip to the station that he had a previous shoulder injury.

As to this claim, it was clearly established at the time of these events that an officer’s gratuitous use of excessive force against a fully compliant, restrained, and non-threatening misdemeanant arrestee is unreasonable—and, therefore, violates the Fourth Amendment. Thus, we agree with the district court that Officer Moralez is not entitled to qualified immunity from McCowan’s excessive-force claim.

  • But in the question, was there any actual harm?
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:35
  • @ScottDunnington that is not stated, it seems to be such a clear violation of the excessive force law that - even without lasting injury - there might be reasons for a similar claim.
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:39

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