Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Physical Force Definition:

Power, violence, or pressure directed against an individual consisting in a physical act.

Related Terms: Battery

In US v Young, the definition of physical force arose in a case in which battery was alleged.

The opinion of the United States Court of Appeals:

"The plain meaning of physical force is power, violence, or pressure directed against a person consisting in a physical act. A person cannot make physical contact — particularly of an insulting or provoking nature — with another without exerting some level of physical force."

Justice Ronnie White of the Supreme Court of Missouri wrote this in State v Vandevere:

"A person commits the crime of sexual abuse if he subjects another person to sexual contact by the use of forcible compulsion. Sexual contact means any touching of the genitals or anus of any person, or the breast of any female person, or any such touching through the clothing, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire of any person. Forcible compulsion is defined as physical force that overcomes reasonable resistance, or a threat, express or implied, that places a person in reasonable fear of death, serious physical injury or kidnapping of himself or another person.

"Physical force is simply force applied to the body. The force involved need not come after the victim has physically resisted. Rather, the force used must be calculated to overcome the victim's resistance."


  • State v. Lopez-McCurdy, 266 SW 3d 874 (2008)
  • State v. Vandevere, 175 SW 3d 107 (2005)
  • US v. Young, 527 F. 3d 1274 (2008)

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