Training – Is It Too Much? -Blog 21-17

You have been involved in an incident in which you have used force to stop an attack. Did you use too much? We take a look at the third element required in a lawful use of force in a self-defense incident; proportionality. The incident was either deadly or non-deadly; and this will dictate what force you can use, either deadly force or non-deadly force.

So, what is non-deadly force? It is force that is capable of producing a physical impairment or pain. Think of a slap to the face, or a punch to the body. Holds that restrain a person. Generally, the injury is not permanent.

“Deadly force” is the force that can be reasonably expected to cause death or serious physical injury.

“Serious physical injury” is a physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

The use of force you may use must be proportional to the force being used against you. You may not use force that is greater than the force that your attacker uses against you.

So, if an 80-year-old woman, weighing less than 100 pounds gets upset with you for taking her parking space and hobbles up and slaps you across your face, you cannot respond by drawing your handgun and shooting her. You have committed two violations in the lawful use of force in a self-defense incident; you have escalated the force from non-deadly to deadly in which you lose the element of innocence and you have responded with deadly force when the attacker used non-deadly force against you. Your response was not proportional to the force used by the attacker.

As a Law Enforcement Officer; the force continuum was constantly part of our training. In which verbal commands are the lowest on the continuum and lethal (deadly) force is the highest. The continuum could be thought of as a sliding scale in which you do not have to follow a sequential order but may have to shift from verbal commands to lethal force; without applying the levels in between.

Some of those force choices in the continuum include, hand-on, where you may use blocks or retraining holds to counter or prevent an attack to non-lethal force options such as OC (Pepper) Spray, or ECW (Electronic Control Weapons) such as Taser self-defense devices used by police and civilians.

If you are carrying a handgun for self-defense, you should also have non-lethal options available, because the likelihood of a non-deadly assault is five times more likely than a deadly force assault. If do NOT want to carry a handgun, but want to have a tool available such as pepper spray or/and an ECW; you can find out if you can lawfully carry by checking here: Taser ECW State Information and OC Spray State Information.

Is there a time where an attacker’s use of hands can raise to the level of deadly force? The quick answer is, yes. If you have an attacker who has gained the advantage over you and has pinned you to the ground and has begun to forcefully slam your head on the concrete sidewalk. The attacker is pummeling you to the point of unconsciousness or you can no longer defend yourself, and you realize that if the assault continues, you are in fear for your life. Or the attacker clasps their hands around your neck and begin to strangle you.

How about more than one attacker? This is known as disparity of force. You have three attackers using their hands and feet to pummel you, if you know you are losing the ability to defend yourself, bad things are going to happen in which you will be seriously hurt or killed, then the incident has risen to a deadly force incident.

A five-foot-tall woman weighing one hundred pounds is on the fourth floor of a parking garage and is confronted by a man who is six- and one-half foot weighing 300 pounds; verbally telling her he is going to throw her off of the level onto the ground below and begins to race toward her to complete the threat. Is this a lethal incident? Again, think about the disparity of force. The woman’s ability overcome the man’s attack is unlikely.

Sometimes a mere display or brandishing your handgun, pepper spray, ECW will stop the threat. But you must be aware of your local laws in regards to brandishing weapons. Where you must be careful, is the display of deadly force defense against a non-deadly force threat. This is an unwarranted escalation of the incident and can result in you facing criminal charges.

You must be able to adjust your response to the changing circumstances of an attack. It is smart to have non-lethal options to protect yourself.

Again, this is a brief overview of the element of proportionality. You can learn the intricacies and nuances by obtaining the book “The Law of Self Defense” by Andrew Branca.

Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”

– Sun Tzu