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Law enforcement's need to pursue criminal suspects has existed, in all probability, since the first laws were ever written. From the days of travel by foot, to horse, and now in the age of motorized transportation, however, one thing has become clear: police pursuits can be extremely dangerous. In 2003 there were an estimated 35,000 police pursuits across the United States. Nearly forty percent of those pursuits, or 14,000, resulted in crashes. Of that number at least half resulted in injuries. Additionally, there were 350 pursuit-related fatalities. Of these fatalities, approximately one-third were innocent bystander deaths. A particularly challenging component of the almost instantaneous decisions that have to be made by patrol officers is that pursuits can escalate into a danger zone very rapidly. One study opined that fifty percent of all police collisions occur in the first two minutes of the pursuit, and more than seventy percent of all collisions occur within six minutes of the pursuit. Thus, fleeing suspects and pursuing officers are inevitably engaged in a potentially hazardous relationship with little margin, or time, to avoid error.

This Article will survey and analyze the current status of the law on police pursuits. Because of the wide scope of the topic, this article will primarily focus on the legal liability associated with law enforcement officers and municipalities for injuries arising out of high-speed pursuits and emergency responses. This Article will also discuss other forces and trends involved in the realm of police pursuit law.