Justified Use Of Force

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. Nothing in this content constitutes legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice on this matter, retain a licensed, competent attorney in your relevant jurisdiction.

Generally speaking, if you shoot someone, that is a crime. You will be charged with murder, aggravated assault, or the like.

However, the law also recognizes there are legal reasons or legal justifications for shooting someone. You will be basically saying “I did the crime, but I had a legal justification for doing so.” Therefore, I want you to read the following sentence in bold, re-read it, continue to re-read it until you have committed it to memory. Knowledge of this sentence may just keep you from showering with Bubba for the next 15 years to life.

A Reasonable Belief That Deadly Force Was Immediately Necessary To Prevent Death, Serious Bodily Injury, Kidnapping Or Rape.

Again, re-read the above until committed to memory. If you ever have to draw your gun in self-defense, you NEED to know the above law. This IS your legal justification recognized here in Pennsylvania.

Now, let’s break down this sentence:

Reasonable – Would an average ordinary citizen do what you just did in an identical circumstance? You need to convince a jury that your actions were reasonable, and that if they were in your shoes, they too, would have done what you did. Keep in mind that the judge, the attorneys, and the jury were not present when you took action. So one of their determinants regarding your guilt or innocence is them agreeing that your actions were reasonable.

Belief – Did YOU believe that failure to act would have meant death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or rape to either you or a loved one? You will need to convince a jury that you truly believed that shooting an attacker was your only option. Note: fear does not come into play here. If you are deathly afraid of clowns, you may not shoot them simply because you are afraid of them. Again, the judge, attorneys and jury were not present when the incident went down, so they need to agree that you truly believed your actions prevented death or injury to you or others.

Deadly Force – In this context “deadly force” does not mean someone died. It means that whatever method used to stop the attack was readily capable of causing death….a baseball bat, a frying pan, a golf club. While the initial design of those implements was not to be deadly, if they are used in a manner readily capable of causing death, they are considered deadly force. Shooting a bad guy in the leg with your .22 can be considered deadly force. If a bad guy is attempting to steal the tires off your car, you may use force to stop him, but not deadly force. You may push him away. You may call 911. However, if he turns and charges you with the tire iron, you have the right to defend yourself. You can use whatever means are necessary in defense of your life, up to and including deadly force. So if a bad guy approaches you in an aggressive manner with your car’s tire iron, you do what is necessary to defend yourself if you reasonably believe you have to do it.

Immediately Necessary – legal justification happens for only a split second. Was deadly force necessary NOW, at that moment in time, to stop an attack? If an attacker says “let me get my gun and I will come back to kill you”, that is not immediately. Immediately means happening at this very moment. If he says, “I’ll be back next week to kill you”, that is not immediately. Keep forensic evidence in mind. If investigators discovered the decedent had entry wounds in his back, you may be spending time at the gray bar hotel because entry wounds in the decedent’s back indicate he was fleeing and was shot in the back…the threat had ceased and it was no longer immediately necessary to shoot.

Prevent Death – If you did not act at that very moment, you would have been killed, seriously injured, kidnapped or raped. The law is written to protect life, not property. If a bad guy is out of your house with your large flat panel TV, let him go. You can always file a homeowner’s insurance claim to get a new TV. But you cannot get another child. Your spouse cannot get another you.

Serious Bodily Injury – this means the injury was so severe as to cause paralysis, missing limbs, maiming, long bouts with physical therapy, etc. It does not mean a cut on the forehead or a black and blue mark on your butt cheek from being pushed to the ground.

Kidnapping – this means removing a victim from their current location and moving them to another location. FBI statistics reveal that nearly 90% of kidnappings result in murder of the victim.

Rape – sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat.