CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUE – Graham V. Connor – Objective 4TH Amendment use  of Force.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE ISSUE – Graham V. Connor – Objective 4TH Amendment use  of Force.

Graham v. Connor is a very interesting case.  It is a rejection of the due process standards of evaluating police use of force, a re-analysis of the Johnson v. Glick standard and also a re-affirmation of the Rochin case law as interpreted through Tennessee v. Garner and Johnson v. Glick.  The law of the land today with respect to use of force is guided by Graham v. Connor and is based on an objective standard of the officer’s actions in the context of the arrestee’s dangerousness.  The key element is how dangerous is the suspect and what is an objectively reasonable police response to suspect actions.

Though not heavily relied upon in the opinion in the Graham v. Connor case, Rochin v. California (1952) set a standard for the interpretation of the use of force based a view of the fourth amendment seen through a due process lens.  The holding that the actions of the officers “Shocked the Conscience” when they pummeled the stomach of a man who had just swallowed 2 morphine pills (Oyez, Rochin 2016) set the standard from 1952 until the Tennessee v. Garner case in 1985 (Marker 2012).  In the Tennessee v. Garner case we saw a four-prong analysis of use of force which gave us an explanation of what it meant to “shock the conscience” and then we have the Graham v. Connor case.

The 1989 incident involving Graham and Officer Connor occurred due to Graham’s diabetic condition.  Graham needed some orange juice for his diabetes and had his friend drive him to the store, commenting before he went in that there were police outside in a patrol car.  He went in, but seeing a long line came right back out.  He needed orange juice more quickly than he would be able to obtain it in the store.  To the police outside this reasonably appeared to be an in and right back out convenience store robbery.

The police, thinking they had a perpetrator right in front of them, pulled the two over as they were leaving to go to a friend’s house for orange juice.  This was a completely reasonable suspicion due to Graham’s textbook actions as observed by the police.  The use of force came into play as the lawful stop and question session went along.  I think that what occurred is that the seriousness of the suspected crime was what caused the officers to use more force than was necessary.  “The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight.’” (MAP Legal Summary, Graham 1989).

The policy effect for law enforcement has been one of a shift of filter.  We all use a filter or a lens when we view situations firsthand or upon detached analysis.  The filter of the “reasonable person” is an objective standard.  It is humorous to say that it is an objective standard in general because across the board in different law cases there was confusion at the time of the event and an argument during the case as to what the “reasonable person” would have done.  That having been said, the “reasonable person” standard is objective.  In this case the Supreme Court fleshes out what the “reasonable officer” objectively must decide on a split second during a use of force situation.  The court gave us a three-pronged analysis for “reasonable police” use of force:

  1. The severity of the crime at issue.
  2. Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others.
  3. Whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

(MAP Legal Summary, Graham 1989).

This case is a clearing up of use of force procedures for police.  It mainly affects police and not the average every day citizen.  The average every day citizen will not aggress towards nor will they resist the police.  This makes them not a threat to anybody, police or others and therefore prong 2 in the Graham analysis is not met, thus no force is used.  What this did is make police more aware of their need for objectivity and therefore the average joe is slightly more safe though by the judicial mechanism of case law and a change in police use of force training.




Graham v. Connor.  490 U.S. 386 (1989).

Retrieved from:

—-in text cite: (Graham 1989)


Understanding Graham v. Connor (2014).

Retrieved from:

—in text cite: (Understanding Graham 2014)


Legal Summary, Graham v. Connor, United States Supreme Court (490 U.S. 386, 1989).

Metropolitan Alliance of Police.

Retrieved from

—in text cite: (MAP Legal Summary, Graham 1989)


United States Supreme Court GRAHAM v. CONNOR, (1989) No. 87-6571.

 FindLaw’s United States Supreme Court case and opinions. (n.d.).

Retrieved May 01, 2016, from:

—in text cite: (FindLaw, Graham 1989)


Rochin v. California. (n.d.). Oyez.

Retrieved May 1, 2016, from:

—in text cite: (Oyez, Rochin 2016)


Marker, J. (2012(7))  Teaching 4th Amendment – Based – Use – of – Force.

Retrieved from:

—in text cite: (Marker 2012)