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When Are You Authorized to Use Deadly Force?

This is a good question. A good friend asked me this question and it inspired me to write this article.

Deadly force is the act of taking another’s life when we believe our life is threatened. It is an act that a person feels is unavoidable. One’s action to use deadly force is no different than the police officer’s right to use deadly force.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you’re at home sleeping, and someone breaks into your home. As you awaken and are approached by this person, you see he has a weapon (doesn’t matter what kind). He says, “Give me your money or valuables, or I will kill you.”

You manage to get to your weapon and kill him. This is justifiable homicide (homicide is the act of taking a life). You felt that your life was in danger, and because of this emotion, you are justified to protect yourself.

Now, if he broke into your house with the intent of only stealing your property, you cannot use deadly force. Why? No life, including the criminal’s life, is worth taking because of property. Property can be replaced, a life cannot. I know that sounds unfair, but that’s the law in most states!

Here is another example:

Suppose a criminal breaks into your garage and you encounter the subject. With your weapon in hand, you command him to put up his hands and surrender. He then attempts to run out the back door to escape. While he is running you shoot him in the back. You will be arrested for murder. Why? The subject did not pose a threat to you or your person. In fact, I know of cases like these where criminals were able to successfully sue the owners of the property WHILE still in prison for the burglary charge!

Deadly force is serious, whether committed by a police officer or a citizen.

I am going to give you three rules for using deadly force for self-protection.

Three Rules for Using Deadly Force to Protect Yourself

Defining The Situation

When it comes to use of force there are typically two schools:

  1. The first is based on your capabilities and moral views.
  2. The other school of thought is based on the legal system.

Personally, I would love to tell you that you should definitely take out anyone trying to take you out and do whatever you need to do for your defense. Unfortunately, this advice would surely lead you into incarceration and lots of other trouble with the legal bureaucracy we have in America.

Therefore, my focus is to keep you in the good graces of our wonderful legal system, in those special and hopefully rare times where you may find yourself in a self-protection predicament. I speak often about situational awareness and knowing your operational environment being your best tools to keep you alive. Understanding your environment and awareness of the situation around you are imperative in defining and dealing with a situation. You must constantly assess your situation because of its ever-changing fluidity.

Your ability to assess and process the information taken from your situation and environment will enable you to decide the amount of force necessary to avoid being a victim. Unfortunately, our legal system only allows you to use just enough force to stop the bad guy from hurting or killing you. The term that the system often refers to in regard to protecting yourself is: you have to be in fear of losing your life.

Were You In Fear For Your Own Life or the Life of a Loved One?

Remember this: “I was in fear of my life and the life of my loved ones.” This sentence is key to keeping yourself out of legal trouble. If you totally destroy some dirtbag because he was trying to attack you or your family, then you justify that the amount of force you used was in proportion to the threat you perceived. Being in fear for your life does justify the use of deadly force in most cases. Being in fear for the life of an innocent and defenseless loved one adds to your justification.

Unfortunately, in our society it is simply not enough that someone attacked you or threatened you for you to put the “hurt” on them. You must be in fear of your life or the life of a loved one. Being in fear of your life or the life of a loved one is almost an all-access pass to use any amount of deadly force. This must also be the reason that you tell the Law Enforcement officer, who is surely to arrive after you crush your attacker’s skull or shoot him. You must tell them this and nothing else; no details. Any further questioning should be done in the presence of your attorney.

Did You Maintain Control?

It is very important for you to maintain your control in the following three aspects should you find yourself using “Proportionate Force.”

  1. Self
  2. Enemy
  3. Situation

Control of yourself – If you are unable to avoid a physical confrontation and must use “proportionate force”; you must refrain from flagrant verbal outbursts that often spew from our mouths in the heat of the moment. You must instead attempt to turn the situation on your attacker. For example, instead of cussing up a storm, try yelling, “STOP!”, “Help!” or “LEAVE ME ALONE!”.

As strange as this sounds, anyone who is a bystander will see you as a victim fighting off a thug and not the aggressor cussing and foaming at the mouth. If you get them on the ground and are stomping them into infinity, you should yell, “Stay down!”.

Saying these things will help you justify destroying this piece of trash who assaulted you, by making it appear as if you had the situation in control and the enemy continued to be confrontational.

What you say and how you say it will make you look as if you had no other choice than to keep stomping your attacker down or to shoot him. Even as a special agent, I was taught to say that I shot to stop the attacker, not that I “shot to kill”. When you explain to the officer that you were simply “in fear of your life and that of your loved one,” everything will mesh. Stay in control if the enemy stops breathing or appears unconscious. Kick them in the groin just to verify (I am kidding) and immediately leave the scene or approach the nearest bystander for assistance. This gives you a credible witness for your actions.

Control the enemy – This is simple; you must do whatever it takes to neutralize him and make him ineffective. You control the enemy by physically protecting yourself. There are many ways for you to accomplish this. You can use pepper spray, stun guns, knives, an ASP Baton, your hands and feet, or even your gun to control your attacker.

Control the situation – Using situational awareness, proper terminology, self-control, and control of your assailant, you will also control the situation. When the local authorities arrive and find that you were “in fear of losing your life and the lives of your loved ones,” by a stark raving lunatic and that you were in control of the situation by calling for help while protecting yourself, directing the assailant to stay on the ground and then verifying that the attacker was indeed unconscious and not baiting you (by kicking him in the groin remember) and then physically approaching the nearest bystander for help, they will know that you were in complete control and will report that you are a credible and competent individual who used “proportionate force” to diffuse the situation. Whew, that was a long sentence, but you get the point.

Click here for easy-to-implement, brutally effective self defense moves taught by Derek Smith.

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One thought on “When Are You Authorized to Use Deadly Force?”

  1. I am currently residing in New Jersey. The state is very hostile. There is no stand Your ground laws or castle law.