Archuleta v. LaCuesta – Case Brief Summary (New Mexico)

In Archuleta v. LaCuesta, 1999 NMCA 113, 128 N.M. 13, 988 P.2d 883, the Court discussed the issue of the use of deadly force by police officers in the context of a tort action.

The case involved a suit for wrongful death, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994) and the State Tort Claims Act, NMSA 1978, §§ 41-4-1 to -27 (1976 as amended through 2001), by the estate of a domestic violence suspect who was shot and killed by a state police officer. Archuleta, 1999 NMCA 113.

In Archuleta, the Court stated:

"Whether an officer's use of deadly force was reasonable is heavily fact dependent. The reasonableness of the use of deadly force in any particular situation is an objective test from the perspective of the officer on the scene, with the understanding that officers must often make split-second decisions in difficult situations about what force is necessary." 1999 NMCA 113, 128 N.M. 13 .

The Court held that the "reasonableness" of the force used in the case involved a factual dispute "surrounding the circumstances immediately connected to the shooting which includes passing on the credibility of witnesses," and should therefore be decided by the jury. 1999 NMCA 1134, 128 N.M. 13.