Deadly force

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Warning sign at Langley AFB Use of Deadly Force Authorized (5730792058).jpg
Warning sign at Langley AFB

Deadly force, also known as lethal force, is use of force that is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death to another person. In most jurisdictions, the use of deadly force is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed.

Use of force Force needed to compel compliance

The use of force, in the context of law enforcement, may be defined as the "amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject".

Death permanent cessation of vital functions

Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include aging, predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and accidents or major trauma resulting in terminal injury. In most cases, bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death.

Contents

Firearms, bladed weapons, explosives, and vehicles are among those weapons the use of which is considered deadly force. The use of non-traditional weapons in an offensive manner, such as a baseball bat, sharp pencil, tire iron or other, may also be considered deadly force. [1]

Firearm weapon that launches a projectile at high velocity through the confined burning of a propellant

A firearm is a portable gun that inflicts damage on targets by launching one or more projectiles driven by rapidly expanding high-pressure gas produced chemically by exothermic combustion (deflagration) of propellant within an ammunition cartridge. If gas pressurization is achieved through mechanical gas compression rather than through chemical propellant combustion, then the gun is technically an air gun, not a firearm.

Vehicle Mobile machine that transports people, animals or cargo

A vehicle is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor vehicles, railed vehicles, watercraft, amphibious vehicles, aircraft and spacecraft.

A weapon, arm or armament is any device that can be used with intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, and warfare. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target.

United States law

Deputy Sheriff with Reising submachine gun. Wayne County Sheriff Deputy with Reising submachine gun.JPG
Deputy Sheriff with Reising submachine gun.

The United States Armed Forces defines deadly force as "force that a person uses causing, or that a person knows or should know would create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily harm or injury". [2] [1] In the United States, the use of deadly force by sworn law enforcement officers is lawful when the officer reasonably believes the subject poses a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. The use of deadly force by law enforcement is also lawful when used to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon when the officer believes escape would pose a significant threat of serious bodily injury or death to members of the public. Common law allowed officers to use any force necessary to effect a felony arrest but this was narrowed in the Tennessee v. Garner ruling in 1985 when the U.S. Supreme Court said that "deadly force...may not be used unless necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or others." [1]

The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States.

Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), is a civil case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that, under the Fourth Amendment, when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless "the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others." It was found that use of deadly force to prevent escape is an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, in the absence of probable cause that the fleeing suspect posed a physical danger.

In United States criminal law, probable cause is the standard by which police authorities have reason to obtain a warrant for the arrest of a suspected criminal or the issuing of a search warrant. It is also the standard by which grand juries issue criminal indictments. The principle behind the standard is to limit the power of authorities to perform random or abusive searches, and to promote lawful evidence gathering and procedural form during criminal arrest and prosecution. The standard also applies to personal or property searches.

In the 1989 Graham v. Connor ruling, the Supreme Court expanded its definition to include "objective reasonableness" standard—not subjective as to what the officer's intent might have been—and it must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene—and its calculus must embody the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. [1]

Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court case where the Court determined that an objective reasonableness standard should apply to a civilian's claim that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other "seizure" of his person.

Most law enforcement agencies establish a use of force continuum starting with simple presence through deadly force. With this model, officers attempt to control subjects and situations with the minimum force necessary. Agencies often have policies limiting the force used to be equal or one step higher on the continuum to the force they are opposing.

Law enforcement in the United States is one of three major components of the criminal justice system of the United States, along with courts and corrections. Although each component operates semi-independently, the three collectively form a chain leading from an investigation of suspected criminal activity to the administration of criminal punishment.

Use of force continuum

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In some ways, it is similar to the U.S. military's escalation of force (EOF). The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for law enforcement officers and civilians, the complex subject of use of force. They are often central parts of law enforcement agencies' use of force policies. Various criminal justice agencies have developed different models of the continuum, and there is no universal or standard model. Generally, each different agency will have their own use of force policy. Some agencies may separate some of the hand-to-hand based use of force. For example, take-downs and pressure point techniques may be one step before actual strikes and kicks. Also, for some agencies the use of aerosol pepper spray and electronic control devices (TASER) may fall into the same category as take-downs, or the actual strikes.

A civilian's use of deadly force is generally justified if he or she reasonably believe that he or she is or other innocent lives are in imminent danger of death or serious injury. [1] Justification and affirmative defenses vary by state and may include certain property crimes, specific crimes against children or prevention of sexual assaults.

A civilian is "a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force". The term "civilian" is slightly different from a non-combatant under the law of war, as some non-combatants are not civilians. Under international law, civilians in the territories of a party to an armed conflict are entitled to certain privileges under the customary laws of war and international treaties such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. The privileges that they enjoy under international law depends on whether the conflict is an internal one or an international one.

The concept of justifiable homicide in criminal law stands on the dividing line between an excuse, a justification, and an exculpation. In certain circumstances, in most societies, homicide is justified when it prevents greater harm to innocents. A homicide can only be justified if there is sufficient evidence to prove that it was reasonable to believe that the offending party posed an imminent threat to the life or well-being of another, in so-called self-defense. A homicide in this instance is blameless and distinct from the less stringent criteria authorizing deadly force in stand your ground rulings.

U.S. law requires an investigation whenever a person causes another person's death, but the mechanism for such investigations can vary by state. The investigation develops evidence regarding the use of deadly physical force for the particular state or jurisdiction. An investigation may performed by a local or state police agency and also a civilian agency, such as a county prosecutor or State Attorney General. [1] A report of the findings of such an investigation may be submitted for prosecution and made public. [3]

In relation to motor vehicles

In Scott v. Harris , No. 05-1631 (April 30, 2007). , the (U.S. Supreme Court 2007) held that a police officer's attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatened the lives of innocent bystanders did not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious bodily injury or death. In the Harris case, Officer Scott applied his police car's push bumper to the rear of the suspect's vehicle, causing the suspect vehicle to lose control and crash, resulting in the fleeing suspect being paralyzed from the waist down. [1]

Traditionally, intentional contact between vehicles has been characterized as unlawful deadly force, though some U.S. federal appellate cases have mitigated this precedent. In Adams v. St. Lucie County Sheriff's Department,998F.2d923(11th Cir.1993). , the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that although fatalities may result from intentional collisions between automobiles such fatalities are infrequent, and therefore unlawful deadly force should not be presumed to be the level of force applied in such incidents; the Adams case was subsequently called into question by Harris v Coweta County,406F.3d1307(11th Cir.2005). , which in turn was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Scott v. Harris case discussed above; the extent to which Adams can continue to be relied on is uncertain. In the Adams case, the officer rammed the suspect's vehicle.

In Donovan v. City of Milwaukee,17F.3d944(7th Cir.1994). , the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognized this principle but added that collisions between automobiles and motorcycles frequently lead to the death of the motorcyclist, and therefore a presumption that unlawful deadly force was used in such intentional collisions is more appropriate. In the Donovan case, the suspect lost control of his motorcycle and became airborne, crashing into the officer's vehicle, which was parked as part of an intercepting roadblock.

See also

Related Research Articles

An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. Generally, the common law definition is the same in criminal and tort law.

False arrest is a common law tort, where a plaintiff alleges they were held in custody without probable cause, or without an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. Although it is possible to sue law enforcement officials for false arrest, the usual defendants in such cases are private security firms.

A castle doctrine, also known as a castle law or a defense of habitation law, is a legal doctrine that designates a person's abode or any legally occupied place as a place in which that person has protections and immunities permitting one, in certain circumstances, to use force to defend oneself against an intruder, free from legal prosecution for the consequences of the force used. The term is most commonly used in the United States, though many other countries invoke comparable principles in their laws.

Reasonable suspicion is a legal standard of proof in United States law that is less than probable cause, the legal standard for arrests and warrants, but more than an "inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch'"; it must be based on "specific and articulable facts", "taken together with rational inferences from those facts", and the suspicion must be associated with the specific individual. If police additionally have reasonable suspicion that a person so detained is armed and dangerous, they may "frisk" the person for weapons, but not for contraband like drugs. Reasonable suspicion is evaluated using the "reasonable person" or "reasonable officer" standard, in which said person in the same circumstances could reasonably suspect a person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity; it depends upon the totality of circumstances, and can result from a combination of particular facts, even if each is individually innocuous.

In the United States, self-defense is an affirmative defense that is used to justify the use of force by one person against another person under specific circumstances.

At common law, the fleeing felon rule permits the use of force, including deadly force, against an individual who is suspected of a felony and is in clear flight. According to David Caplan "Immediate stopping of the fleeing felon, whether actually or presumably dangerous, was deemed absolutely necessary for the security of the people in a free state, and for maintaining the "public security." ... " Indeed, it has been said that the social policy of the common law in this matter was not only to threaten dangerous felons and hence deter them, but was also to induce them to "surrender peaceably" if they dared commit inherently dangerous felonies, rather than allow them to "escape trial for their crimes."

In some countries, resisting arrest is a criminal charge against an individual who has committed, depending on the jurisdiction, at least one of the following acts:

Stop and identify statutes

"Stop and identify" statutes are statutory laws in the United States that authorize police to legally obtain the identification of someone whom they reasonably suspect of having committed a crime. If there is no reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed, an individual is not required to provide identification, even in "Stop and ID" states.

Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States involving a lawsuit against a sheriff's deputy brought by a motorist who was paralyzed after the officer ran his eluding vehicle off the road during a high-speed car chase. The driver contended that this action was an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The case also involved the question of whether a police officer's qualified immunity shielded him from suit under Section 1983. On April 30, 2007, in an 8-1 decision, the court sided with police and ruled that a "police officer's attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatens the lives of innocent bystanders does not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death." In a rare occurrence, the court accepted the presentation of video evidence of the high-speed pursuit. Such procedure is quite uncommon in the Supreme Court and was viewed as part of an interesting relationship between the Supreme Court and technology. The video had a strong effect on the Court's decision and is viewed as a major factor in how the court made its decision. The author of the opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia, in a first-time occurrence ever, posted the video of the car chase online.

Police accountability involves holding both individual police officers, as well as law enforcement agencies responsible for effectively delivering basic services of crime control and maintaining order, while treating individuals fairly and within the bounds of law. Police are expected to uphold laws, regarding due process, search and seizure, arrests, discrimination, as well as other laws relating to equal employment, sexual harassment, etc. Holding police accountable is important for maintaining the public's "faith in the system". Research has shown that the public prefers independent review of complaints against law enforcement, rather than relying on police departments to conduct internal investigations. There is suggestion that such oversight would improve the public's view on the way in which police officers are held accountable.

The Penal Law of the State of New York combines justification and necessity into a single article, Article 35. "Defense of Justification" comprises sections 35.05 through 35.30 of the Penal Law. The general provision relating to necessity, section 35.05, provides:

§ 35.05 Justification; generally.

Unless otherwise limited by the ensuing provisions of this article defining justifiable use of physical force, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when:

The powers of the police in England and Wales are defined largely by statute law, with the main sources of power being the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Police Act 1996. This article covers the powers of territorial police forces only, but a constable in one of the UK's special police forces gains those powers while he/she is on loan to a territorial force or discovers an incident which is otherwise outside his/her statutory jurisdiction. In law, police powers are given to constables. Some police powers are also available in more limited extent to police community support officers and other non warranted positions such as police civilian investigators or designated detention officers employed by some police forces even though they are not constables.

Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain United States Government officers or employees is an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 111. Simple assault is a class A misdemeanor, but if physical contact occurs, the offense is a class D felony. If a deadly weapon is used or bodily injury is inflicted, it is a class C felony. Threatening the government officials of the United States, particularly law enforcement officers, can in some cases fall under this statute.

<i>Plummer v. State</i> 1893 court case decided by the Supreme Court of Indiana

Plummer v. State was an 1893 court case decided by the Supreme Court of Indiana. The case overturned a manslaughter conviction, ruling that the convicted defendant had been protecting himself from the illegal use of force by a police officer. It is widely quoted on the internet, under the theory that it gives citizens the right to resist an unlawful arrest by force, including deadly force. The full citation is Plummer v. State, 135 Ind. 308, 34 N.E. 968 (1893).

Use-of-force law in Missouri refers to the law & legal doctrine which determine whether a member of law enforcement in the state of Missouri is justified in the amount of force used to gain control of an unruly situation or person, including situations involving death. In the United States, doctrine about use of force is primarily defined by the individual states, although there have been some Supreme Court decisions of limited scope.

In the United States, use of deadly force by police has been a high-profile issue since the 1960s, when such incidents were often followed soon afterward by urban riots.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Robert C. Ankony, "Sociological and Criminological Theory: Brief of Theorists, Theories, and Terms," CFM Research, July 2012, page 37.
  2. AFI 31-207 Arming and Use of Force by Air Force Personnel
  3. "Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement Officers". Chief Attorney. February 1, 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2013.