Peace Officer Immunity – Pursuit of a Fleeing Suspect


Ex parte City of Warrior and Town of Trafford, [Ms. 1200759, June 24, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Shaw, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur; Mitchell, J., concurs specially; Sellers and Stewart, JJ., concur in the result) issues a writ of mandamus to the Jefferson Circuit Court directing it to grant summary judgment dismissing wrongful death claims against the City of Warrior and the City of Trafford arising from a head-on collision with a fleeing suspect who had been pursued in a high-speed chase by Warrior and Trafford police officers. The Court determines at the time of the pursuit and collision, the officers “were indisputably acting as peace officers; [and] that the officers are therefore entitled to immunity pursuant to § 6-5-338(a) and Ex parte Cranman, …; [and] that none of the exceptions to State-agent immunity apply; and, thus, that Warrior and Trafford are entitled to immunity as to [the] claims against them, which are premised on the doctrine of respondeat superior.” Ms. *11. The Court explains

Warrior and Trafford established that their respective officers were performing a discretionary law-enforcement function in attempting to arrest Wright, who was evading a lawful traffic stop. See Telfare v. City of Huntsville, 841 So. 2d 1222, 1228 (Ala. 2002) (holding that “[g]enerally, arrests and attempted arrests are classified as discretionary functions” for the purpose of establishing peace-officer immunity). Warrior and Trafford submitted undisputed evidence that Wright had failed to comply with Officer Henderson’s clear attempt to effectuate a traffic stop for multiple traffic offenses committed in that officer’s presence; therefore, the officers had probable cause to arrest him. The Court has previously observed that arresting a driver “for refusing to comply with a lawful order or direction of a police officer” is “clearly a discretionary function” because “[t]here is no hard and fast rule concerning when there is probable cause to arrest a person pursuant to § 32-5A-4, Ala. Code 1975.” Ex parte Duvall, 782 So. 2d 244, 248 (Ala. 2000).

Ms. **15-16.

The Court also holds that the Warrior and Trafford pursuit policies “constitute guidelines, not detailed rules and regulations, such as those stated on a checklist that must be followed by an officer in order for State-agent immunity to apply.” Ms. *20, (internal quotation marks omitted).

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