The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that local and county law officers don’t always have immunity from prosecution under state law. Joshua Thomas said he was wrongfully assaulted and arrested by officers of the North Liberty Police Department and deputies of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office as he tried to break up a fight at the North Liberty Fun Days in 2007.
A disorderly conduct charge against him was later dropped and he was acquitted on an interference with official acts charge. Thomas sued claiming assault, battery, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. He said he was tasered unnecessarily and that caused him ongoing pain and muscle and ligament damage.
The district court dismissed the case — ruling the officers were working in an official capacity for the state and were covered by state immunity from prosecution. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says the case raises difficult questions about when immunity should be granted public officials. The court ruled in this case the mere act of enforcing state law is not enough to bring municipal officials and employees within the scope of the state immunity. It ordered the case back to district court for further action.
See the complete ruling here: Thomas ruling PDF