In less than two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to take on the complicated question of when Taser use should be considered excessive force. One of the cases involves a Maui resident who got zapped by police in her home.

Meanwhile, Hawaii lawmakers this year pushed hard and passed a bill that enables Department of Land and Natural Resources officers to carry the electric weapons.

Police officers wielding Tasers have caused deaths nationwide, fueling controversy over their use and prompting lawsuits. Police agencies say the devices give officers a less lethal option to incapacitate suspects.

But an Amnesty International study released in February shows at least 500 individuals have been killed by excessive use of Tasers in the U.S. since 2001. And for the first time, a scientific, peer-reviewed study released this month in the American Heart Association’s premier journal reports that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death, according to USA Today.

The Supreme Court’s nine justices will consider whether to add the Taser cases to their upcoming docket during a May 24 conference. One of those cases involves a Maui woman who was ‘Tased’ by Maui police officers in her home during a domestic violence investigation in 2006. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, applies to the use of Tasers.

Currently, laws concerning Taser use are not clearly defined. The 9th Circuit also ruled that police officers can have immunity from lawsuits filed by people who have been ‘Tased,’ according to McClatchy Newspapers.

In Hawaii, lawmakers passed the House Bill 2681 on the last day at the Legislature, which allows DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers to carry Tasers for six years while the agency seeks accreditation. The measure awaits the governor’s signature before it becomes law.

Before this bill passed, DOCARE officers were prohibited from carrying Tasers unless the division was accredited by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a national group.

CALEA sets policies, operations and training standards for police, sheriffs and other law enforcement groups.

Critics of the bill said the accreditation exemption would reduce the department’s training and standards.

Laurie Temple, staff attorney at the Hawaii American Civil Liberties Union opposed the bill from the beginning. She said the exemption from pursuing accreditation is a “threat” to the public.

But DLNR says that the accreditation has no relationship with its Taser training. That training will be provided by Taser International, the manufacturing company that also trains police officers who carry electric guns throughout the state, DLNR Spokeswoman Deborah Ward told Civil Beat.

“DOCARE has no intention of lessening training or its standards,” she said in an email. The bill would allow DOCARE “to arm its officers with electric guns for a six year period while the Division continues its efforts in pursuit of CALEA accreditation.”

But the ACLU told Civil Beat that just providing officers with Taser training is not enough. Temple said that the exemption from CALEA accreditation would remove the “whole package” of policy and procedure standards.

“Requiring accreditation in addition to training on the proper use of potentially lethal electric guns offers better protection — for law enforcement and the public — from injury and from violations of an individual’s right to fair treatment under the law,” Temple wrote in an email.

“The ACLU urges the Governor to veto this bill. Public safety is jeopardized by allowing Department of Land and Natural Resources officers to carry a potentially lethal weapon while exempting the Department from training to ensure meaningful supervision and oversight,” she said.

DLNR sought the exemption in light of safety concerns for its 100 officers who often patrol remote areas throughout the state without radio communication or any backup support, Ward said.

DOCARE officers are equipped like police officers and carry pepper spray, a baton and a gun in their belt.

The department says that using a Taser is a better and safer way to handle aggressors without having to deploy deadly force.

Ward said that the Taser will provide “officers with the capability to immediately incapacitate an aggressor, which in turn reduces the likelihood of injury to the officer and to the aggressive subject.”