When Is Using Deadly Force Justified?

When would a person be justified in consciously deciding to use deadly force? For instance if someone started hitting you, would you be justified in taking out an automatic pistol and blowing his head off? What if he was trying to steal from you?

Justified morally and justified legally are two different things. I personally would only use deadly force to match deadly force. If a guy takes a swing at me I won’t push him into traffic.

If I was being robbed via intimidation and I had a pistol, I’d use it to warn the robber off, not shoot him unless he grabs for the gun.

It’s certainly justified when the defender reasonably believes their actions are necessary due to an imminent danger to life, limb, or to prevent a rape or kidnapping of either their own person or that of a third party. One of the problems with answering this question is that it’s tough to apply them to each situation. If we take the example in the OP of one person beating on another does it matter if one person is a 180 pound male in his 20s and the other a 65 year old man weighing it at 130? Would it matter if it was two men of equal build with the attacker beating the man while attempt to carjack him at 1 am?

I know a lot of people love to hate Texas around here but I think they have pretty reasonable deadly force laws. You’ll note that they also include the right to use deadly force in response to someone breaking into their vehicle or stealing from them.


Consequence is the great moderator of response. No point in killing someone for minor reasons if the legal penalty — such as execution or imprisonment — is inevitable.
Absent any penalty, then for stealing it would depend upon the personal value as distinct from monetary value to the owner. One might let a thief take off a $200,000 car because essentially it is only a car, and something replaceable: one might kill to protect a $20 ring if it was the only one of it’s kind and was an heirloom. A peasant would be entitled to protect his small patch of owned land from a landowner’s goons using deadly force because this is everything to him, even if he was in no physical danger.

And still without penalty: if you are in danger of you or yours being harmed, then I see justification for using any proper ( viz: such as gun or knife, not setting them on fire or torturing them ) method of defence that includes death as a response. Seriously, I would sooner have whichever person dead than be punched in the face myself.
And of course, the concept of gun as equaliser for those of us not violent or strong enough to be much good at defensive martial arts means that the more deadly the instrument of protection, the more likely the death of an aggressor.

[ Actually, I’ve just realised, ‘Equalizer’ might well have had a different meaning when originally applied to guns: could have just meant equalizing people in death… Victorians were big on Death. )

It’s justified for Cases # 15, 42, 89, 124, 178, 214, 282, 315, 329, 387, 412, 482, 531, 653 and always on case #654.



Especially no. That’s just fucked up. Never mind the inherent shittiness of privileging things over people, I can’t off the top of my head even think of anywhere where it’s legal (Castle Doctrine isn’t it).

Allowing deadly force in response to stealing a car is not reasonable. A car is just a thing, which can never be more valuable than a human life. Not even a scumbag car thief’s life.

What if they’re trying to kill you or rape you?

Do you have a real question or looking for an abortion gotcha?

It all depends but as my karate instructor was fond of saying “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” If you initiate violence against me or mine, all bets are off.

I’d guess it would be “permanent harm”, though that’s a pretty vague definition, i’m afraid.

It varies from one jurisdiction to another. But the general rule is that you’re justified in using deadly physical force if you’re using it to prevent a serious crime (like murder, rape, or serious assault) being inflicted against yourself or another person and you have no other reasonable means of preventing the crime.

So you’re not going to be jusitified in shooting somebody because they are hitting you. The law’s going to say you should save yourself by some other means like running away. Or, if you can’t get away, the law is going to say that getting beat up is not sufficient grounds to justify killing somebody.

“I’ll kill a man in a fair fight, or if I think he’s gonna start a fair fight…”

But seriously, I would kill to protect my life or the lives of those I love for certain. I can’t say I’d do it without hesitation because I have never been in such a situation, thank Og. This of course assumes any non-lethal alternatives still present some risk of my or my loved one’s deaths.

I am extremely unlikely to be able to tell if someone who attacks me or mine violently plans to kill anyone or not. Therefore I will assume they mean to kill, and act accordingly. This is why I don’t won a gun, by the way. I’d hate to misread a situation and have a needless death on my conscience.

There is almost no other situation in which I would kill on purpose, though I might in the case of the famous train problem, where a train can be redirected to kill one person or kill hundreds. Even then I would likely be paralyzed by indecision.

Not even then.

I’m assuming an ethics debate here rather than a legal one.

Taking a life is serious. It theoretically causes the greatest amount of harm to another that we can inflict. Since all evidence points to the conclusion that death is the ultimate end to existence for us, taking a life is an act that is irrevocable and final. Since the untimely death of a person also normally causes great pain to the friends and family of the deceased, it also has a tendency to start feuds and generally causes misery all around. Understanding that, it should always be an option of last resort. It is ethically justified in my opinion in cases where you honestly feel your life, or the life of another is in immediate danger. This is the sole situation in which I feel that killing is ethically justifiable. The attacker in this case has demonstrated his or her complete disregard for the lives of others, and is willing to take them for some sort of selfish gain. They have in effect broken ties with the contract we all abide to when we live among others.

Other situations like capital punishment, and war can be trickier to pin down. Personally I feel that taking a life in these situations is wrong; though it may be the best choice available. It should always be regretted that we had to execute a criminal, or kill in the name of politics. We should not gloat over a “victory”, nor fondly remember the Justice in executing a criminal. We did nothing more than what we had to do.

There was a time in my life where having my car stolen would have had a severe impact on my ability to earn a living because I would no longer be able to get to work. Maybe a car is just a thing to you but a lot of people depend on them for their livelihood.

I agree with Blalron - a car is not as valuable as a human life, even if you need it to drive to work.

Suppose a garage caught on fire and your car was inside. And there was also somebody you didn’t know trapped inside the burning building. You only have time to get your car or the person out. Would you choose to save your car?

umm dude, have you seen my car?

The problem is you have no idea of the intentions of your attacker. You have a gun and your attacker has fists. He’s bigger and stronger than you.

You have no idea if he’s going to kill you, cripple you for life, cripple you for a few weeks or simply take your money.

Since you have no idea in that situation, to me, you have every right to meet any kind of force with whatever force you want.

The attacker should lose all rights once he starts, since you the victim have no idea of their intentions.

Too many people get lost on this idea of proportional response. It doesn’t mean EXACT for EXACT. It means using enough force to stop the attack.

Since most fights are not fair, an attacker rarely picks on someone who is equally armed, proportionality means the force you use, should be the force to set the situation back to where it was before the attack.

Not necessarily in all states. I live in a “stand your ground” state, which means there is no duty to retreat anywhere. If assaulted by a larger and/or more capable person, the victim may be entitled to use deadly force in self defense…ie, 6’4" 250 football player assaults 98 pound octogenarian, Granny can probably use deadly force in self defense. Also, a scenario like that is likely to be plausibly considered an attempted robbery, lending credence to the use of deadly force to prevent it.

I have heard that the reason deadly force is justified in a carjacking is due to a trend of killing people as soon as they are out of the car.