Results: What rights violations are alleged in qualified immunity cases?

Excessive force and false arrest were the most common constitutional violations alleged against government defendants, raised in 27% and 25% of appeals. 1  Perhaps surprisingly, alleged First Amendment violations made up the next largest category at 18%. This category includes alleged violations of freedom of speech, assembly, association, and religious exercise.

Also common were alleged violations relating to the care of prisoners and others in custody, illegal searches, and procedural due process. 2   Each of these constitutional claims were raised in at least 10% of appeals. Figure 4 shows the prevalence of all the violation types we coded. 3  

Figure 4: Wide Array of Alleged Constitutional Violations
Excessive force violations are most commonly alleged, but First Amendment claims appear in 18% of appeals

0% 10% 20% 30% 40% Excessive Force False arrest/malicious prosecution First Amendment Care in custody Illegal search Procdural due process Parental rights Percent of qualified immunity appeals in which violation was alleged

Note: A single appeal may involve multiple alleged violations. Percentages therefore do not sum to 100%. In addition, we display only violation types we coded for. However, opinions sometimes involved other violation types (e.g., substantive due process).