Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Deadly Force Definition:

Force which creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury.

Related Terms: Weapon, Self-Defence, Stand Your Ground, Curtilage, Semayne's Case, Se Defendendo

In Vera Cruz v. City of Escondido, Justice McKeown of the United States Court of Appeals wrote:

"Deadly force is that force which is reasonably likely to cause death."

But in Smith v. City of Hemet, the same Court overruled itself and the Vera Crus definition as Justice Reinhardt presiding offered another standard for deadly force, as force which:

"... creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury."

One of many interesting patterns of fact which turn on the use of deadly force involves the use of police dogs; whether the deployment of police dogs upon a suspect is deadly force. Although it is subject to subsequent judicial interpretation (as indeed, was the fate of Vera Cruz, op. cit.), these words were used by Justice Michael Melloy of the United States Court of Appeals in Kuha v. City of Minnetonka:

"The use of a properly trained police dog in the course of apprehending a suspect does not constitute deadly force."

And yet in Robinette v Barnes, Justice Danny Boggs of the same Court:

"An officer's intent in using a police dog, or the use of an improperly trained dog, could transform the use of the dog into deadly force."

The Model Penal Code of the United States of America proposes this definition of deadly force:

"Deadly force means force that the actor uses with the purpose of causing or that he knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury.

"Purposely firing a firearm in the direction of another person or at a vehicle in which another person is believed to be constitutes deadly force.

"A threat to cause death or serious bodily injury, by the production of a weapon or otherwise, so long as the actor's purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that he will use deadly force if necessary, does not constitute deadly force."

REFERENCES:

Categories & Topics:


Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!