updated 12/30/2009 6:42:41 PM ET 2009-12-30T23:42:41

A federal appeals court has set down strict guidelines for when police officers may use Tasers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that a Coronado, Calif., police officer used excessive force when he used his Taser on an unarmed, nonviolent suspect.

The unanimous three-judge panel upheld a trial court's decision allowing the suspect, Carl Bryan, to pursue his lawsuit against the city, police department and officer.

The appeals court says police should use a Taser only in threatening situations because it inflicts more pain than other so-called nonlethal weapons at an officer's disposal.

Experts expect some police departments will have to change their Taser policies if the decision stands.

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