Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Least Amount of Physical Force?

Training exercise (AP Photo/Ted S. Warre)
With the defund the police movement in some large, more liberal leaning cities and other feel good measures some state legislatures are considering or adopting, the private citizen who is involved in a self-defense incident may face the flawed concept of “the least amount of force” necessary to resolve an incident. 

On the surface, it would appear that the requirement to use the least amount of force necessary to resolve a problem has merit; however, when you consider the actual application of this concept in the heat of the moment, it is clear that the idea is impossible to implement.

In Washington State for example, recent legislation requires police to: “use the least amount of physical force necessary to overcome resistance under the circumstances, which includes a consideration of the characteristics and conditions of the person for the purposes of determining whether to use force against that person and, if force is necessary, determining the appropriate and least amount of force possible to effect a lawful purpose.”

The difference between police use of force versus a private citizen’s use of force under the law in most states is that police may use necessary force – i.e., force that is one-step above that of the criminal when is necessary to mitigate an incident, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm. 

Private citizens on the other hand may only use equal or proportional force to stop a threat. In other words, a private citizen may only respond to another’s use of unlawful non-deadly force with non-deadly force and may only use deadly force in response to the threat or use of unlawful deadly force.

When deadly force enters the equation, there is no difference between police use of deadly force and a private citizen’s use of deadly force. 

The thoughtful article linked below discusses the challenges inherent in determining how one would identify the "least" amount of physical force necessary to resolve a situation. This is a good read and is particularly useful if you live in a state adopting or considering such legislation.

Article here

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