To illustrate SDP in relationship to a law enforcement officer’s state of mind we can look at two situations. In the first situation, if a police officer were in high-speed pursuit of an armed suspect driving a stolen vehicle recklessly throughout the public highways, this person is a danger to the public and therefore, if an officer uses physical force in this situation he or she would most likely not violate the suspect’s substantive due process rights. In our scenario, the officer uses his police vehicle to force the suspect’s vehicle off the road and it crashes into a pole injuring the suspect. The actions of the officer in relationship to his/her use of physical force would likely not “shock the conscience” as the officer’s state of mind seems to be working in concordance with how one would react in making split-second decisions in a potentially life threatening situation.
In the same scenario, these same law enforcement officers notice that the suspect is clearly in physical distress. The officer declines to call for medical assistance and instead questions the suspect regarding his crimes. It is clear that the suspect is in physical distress. As the suspect’s condition worsens, the officer still does not call for help and the officer continues his questioning, telling the suspect that he will call for help once the suspect confesses to his crimes.
In this second part of the same scenario, the officer’s decision not to call for medical assistance, their state of mind to continue questioning would likely “shock the conscience.” The suspect can file civil rights claims against the law enforcement officers for violating his SDP rights.