Qualified immunity police officers from being held personally liable for constitutional violations as long as the official did not violate “clearly established” law.
In 1871, Congress passed 42 USC 1983 to allow citizens to sue government officials personally for civil rights violations.
It says, “Every person who under color of any statute…subjects any person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution shall be liable to the party injured in any action at law.
Meaning you can sue anyone from the government to who violates your constitutional rights.
However in 1983 the Supreme Court established “qualified immunity.”
The Court said unless a police officer violated a “Clearly Established” legal right they could not be sued.
Saying would be unfair to hold government officials to constitutional rules they were not aware of at the time of the violation.
A ”Clearly Established” is so obvious and well known that any reasonable police officer would have known.
And it must be so clear to the least informed, least reasonable ‘reasonable officer.
The Supreme Court said that qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
Judges must apply a two part test before accepting a “qualified immunity” defense.
First, If the allegations are true are they really a violation of your rights?
Second, were those rights clearly established?
So unless there is a case directly on point qualified immunity applies meaning “ No precedent = no clearly established law = no liability.”