Vol. 22 No. 6- New pursuit law becomes effective July 1, 2007

May 4, 2007

California ‘s new rules regarding pursuits take effect on July 1, 2007 and must be met by law enforcement agencies if they wish to retain the immunity from civil liability set forth in V.C. section 17004.7.

SB 719 passed into law in late 2005 and established minimum requirements for agencies to meet in order to retain the protections contained in V.C. 17004.7.  In light of the most recent decision from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding pursuits, Scott v. Harris, (Client Alert Vol. 22, No. 5, April 30, 2007), California law enforcement must remember that states can establish more stringent laws than those set forth in federal law.

Scott v. Harris is an excellent decision which should assist law enforcement in determining when, and under what circumstances, pursuits are appropriate and when physical intervention to stop the pursuit is justified. Nonetheless, in order to ensure immunity from liability, under California law, for injuries caused by fleeing suspects, California law enforcement must meet the criteria set forth in this legislation.

For example, in the new language of V.C. 17004.7, an agency’s pursuit policy must address when a peace officer can use physical intervention to stop a fleeing suspect.  If that is not in the agency’s policy there would be potential liability under state law, even though it may be totally justified under the federal law as articulated in the Scott case.

All law enforcement agencies are required, in order to retain the immunity protection currently in effect, to implement a pursuit policy which contains all the elements set forth in SB 719 and must provide training to all peace officers who are authorized to engage in a pursuit, prior to July 1, 2007.

The question has been posed as to whether all officers must be trained, including, for example, new deputy sheriffs who are working in correctional facilities, and not yet on patrol?  In our opinion, it does if there is any possiblity that those officers might, for whatever reason, be assigned to work in the field and, potentially, engage in a pursuit.

As the old saying goes, “you don’t have a problem, until you have a problem.” If that deputy had not received the training, engaged in a righteous pursuit, and the fleeing suspect injured a third person, it would be too late to then provide the required training for the deputy. The agency could not then avail itself of the immunity to which it would, otherwise, have been entitled.


As set forth above, the clock is ticking – pursuit policies must meet the new requirements and officers must be trained (and sign an acknowlegement of the training) before July 1, 2007.  The POST Commission, in compliance with the law, has developed guidelines to assist law enforcement executives in drafting their own policies, and has also developed a two hour telecourse on the new law.

We had the privilege to participate in both activities and, in our opinion, believe the guidelines and telecourse to be excellent tools for all law enforcement executives.  We also believe that use of the telecourse will meet the training requirements set forth in the law.

We have attached to this Client Alert a copy of SB 719 in its entirety for the convenience of our clients.  We would urge that you all review it, even if you believe you are already in compliance – it never hurts to re-read the “instruction book.”

  If you wish additional information regarding the development of the legislation, please refer to Client Alert Memos Vol. 20, No. 17 (October 14, 2005) and Vol. 21, No. 7 (April 11, 2006).

As we always do, we again urge that you confer with your agency’s legal counsel, in this case to insure that you have met all the requirements set forth in the new law.  Should you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail, please feel free to contact me at 714 – 446-1400 or by e-mail at  mjm@jones-mayer.com.