deadly force | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

Deadly force is an amount of force likely to cause serious bodily injury or death if used against a person.

Because of their deadly nature, the use of firearms will nearly always constitute deadly force.

Deadly force is a concept in criminal law that refers to the amount of force that may cause or is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm. According to the Model Penal Code, deadly force can be used in self-defense or defense of others when it is necessary to protect against imminent death or serious bodily harm. However, the use of such force is generally only justified when there is no other reasonable alternative available.

The use of firearms, in particular, is considered to be a use of deadly force due to their potential to cause serious injury or death. In many cases, the use of such force is considered excessive and may result in criminal charges if used without justification. For example, a police officer who uses such force in a situation where it was not necessary to protect against imminent harm may face charges of excessive force or even homicide.

The use of deadly force is a controversial topic in criminal law and can vary depending on the circumstances. Some states have “Stand Your Ground” laws that allow individuals to use lethal force in self-defense without a duty to retreat. Other states require individuals to attempt to retreat before using such force in self-defense.

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Last Modified: 04/09/2023


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