Navigating the Thin Line between Self-Defense and Excessive Force

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There is a delicate balance between self-defense and the use of excessive force. While individuals have the right to protect themselves, it is essential to recognize the potential implications and legal considerations of crossing this thin line. 

The most recent case of excessive force at the forefront of the media occurred on May 5, 2023, in New York City. After allegedly threatening passengers on a Manhattan subway, 30-year-old Jordan Neely died after being put in a fatal chokehold by another passenger. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. Ex-Marine, 24-year-old Daniel Penny, has been arrested for his actions which allegedly led to Mr. Neely’s death. Not only will this case be tried in a court of law, but it is also being hotly debated in the court of public opinion. Is this a case of self-defense, or is this a case of an overreaction to a person in the throes of mental illness? Were the actions of Daniel Penny justified?

Understanding Self-Defense

Self-defense is a fundamental right granted to individuals in our nation. It allows persons to protect themselves or others from imminent harm or threat. However, it is crucial to establish that the force used is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.

The Concept of Excessive Force

Excessive force refers to using more force than is reasonably necessary to defend oneself or others. It occurs when the level of response surpasses what a reasonable person would consider appropriate in a given situation. It is important to note that self-defense does not grant individuals the right to use unlimited or disproportionate force.

Evaluating the Reasonableness of Force

 Determining the reasonableness of force requires carefully examining the specific circumstances surrounding the incident. Factors such as the threat’s severity, the danger’s immediacy, and the response’s proportionality play a crucial role in assessing the reasonableness of the force used in self-defense.

Types of Cases that Involve Excessive Force are:

  • Home Intrusion Scenarios: This involves analyzing situations where an intruder enters one’s home and the potential use of force to protect oneself and loved ones.
  • Physical Altercations: Examining street fights or confrontations where individuals face immediate threats and must decide how much force is necessary for self-defense. 

 Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law allows a person to use deadly force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent great harm or imminent death to themselves or others. 

Crossing the Line from Self-Defense to Excessive Force can lead to Criminal Charges such as: 

  • Assault: An assault is the intentional, unlawful threat by word or action to do violence to another person, with the ability to do so. The severity of the assault charge can range from simple assault to aggravated assault based on factors such as the use of a weapon, the intent to commit a felony, or the extent of injuries inflicted.
  • Battery: This crime involves the intentional and unlawful use of force or violence against another person. Similar to assault, the severity of the battery charge can vary based on factors like the extent of injuries or weapon use.
  • Aggravated Battery: This is a more serious offense that involves intentionally causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to another person. Aggravated battery charges often involve a higher degree of force and result in severe consequences.
  • Manslaughter: When excessive force leads to the unintentional killing of another person, manslaughter charges may be applicable. Manslaughter may be categorized as voluntary or involuntary, depending on the level of intent involved.
  • Murder: In cases where excessive force leads to the intentional and unlawful killing of another person, murder charges may be applicable. Degrees of murder charges can vary based on the specific intent and circumstances surrounding the incident.

 In addition to criminal charges, individuals who use excessive force may face civil lawsuits for personal injury, wrongful death, or other related claims. 

The AP Law Group: Your Best Defense Starts with Us

Navigating the thin line between self-defense and excessive force requires a careful examination of the facts, a comprehensive defense strategy, and a thorough understanding of the implications. Gathering and preserving evidence, identifying witnesses, and presenting a compelling defense strategy are vital in effectively navigating these cases. At The AP Law Group, we can employ several strategies to defend against excessive force charges. We tailor our approach to best protect the rights and interests of our clients throughout the legal process.

Contact The AP Law Group to defend against misdemeanor and felony Florida state and federal charges. Our experienced trial lawyers will vigorously defend your rights, finding solutions in even the toughest situations. We understand that your liberty, career, and reputation are on the line. Call us to schedule an appointment at (352) 732-9191 at our Gainesville or Ocala, Florida offices.