When apprehending or subduing a suspect, law enforcement is allowed to use reasonable physical force. Typically, such use of force would include bracing a suspect against a wall or the ground as he/she handcuffs the suspect. If a suspect resists, then law enforcement is authorized to counter the resistance with additional degrees of force, including lethal. In most cases, the use of force by a law enforcement officer is justified. However, when the degree of force trips the reasonable line into excessive, and, in some cases, fatal, the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney may be needed. The California Legislature is currently considering legislation that would restrict the use of lethal force by law enforcement to those situations in which it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death. A discussion of the excessive use of force by law enforcement, as well as the proposed law, will follow below.
The Excessive Use of Force, Currently
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the right of law enforcement to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat. However, the degree of force used by law enforcement must be proportional to the threat, and only escalate in response to the threat.
Excessive force refers to situations where law enforcement uses force which exceeds the amount necessary to diffuse an incident or to protect themselves or others from harm. The Constitutional right to be free from excessive force is found in both the reasonable search and seizure requirement of the Fourth Amendment and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment of the Eighth Amendment.
Again, turning to the Supreme Court, the Court has set the floor by noting that lethal force can only be used during an arrest if:
● Such force is necessary to prevent the escape of the suspect; or
● Law enforcement has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
Pending California Legislation
As mentioned above, the California Assembly is debating a bill which would raise the floor set by the U.S. Supreme Court, and permit law enforcement to use lethal force only when necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to law enforcement or a third party. Accordingly, lethal force would only be justified in the following situations, given the totality of the circumstances:
● There are no reasonable alternatives available, including warnings or other non-lethal means; or
● Where law enforcement has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person if the subject is not immediately apprehended.
Additionally, the bill would make a homicide committed by law enforcement justifiable only if, as stated above, the use of lethal force was necessary given the totality of the circumstances, but, importantly, would exclude those situations in which the gross negligence of law enforcement contributed to the necessity.
Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are the subject of the excessive use of force by law enforcement, engage the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The Los Angeles attorneys at the Manshoory Law Group, APC handle a wide variety of criminal offenses, and know how to use evidence of excessive force to convince judges and prosecutors to dismiss, drop or reduce criminal charges. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.