Criminal Defences and Criminal Punishments: Use of Force
Enforcement of law though force is an issue that has attracted great controversy due to its necessity and also the loopholes that have allowed the right to be misused in some instances, by law enforcement authorities. The police, for instance, have a difficult task of maintaining law and order as they experience a diversity of criminals and other individuals who break the law. The process, therefore, necessitates extra force but this has to be regulated by law
The use of force is a right to police officers and other law enforcers as it is a tool to ensure the perpetrators are arrested and also a means to ensure that their security and that of other citizens is maintained whenever the lawbreaker poses to harm or resists law enforcement. This, therefore, justifies the use of force but leaves a window for misuse of the right as most of the reasons for its implementation are subjective. The law, however, considers some instances when the use of force is reasonable and respect the policies governing this decision. This is in a bid to ensure that the officer is not restricted from performing their duties by certain inconsiderate policies. The court in such cases uses key points when discussing this to rule on cases where the use of force may have been implemented unlawfully.
When officers are seizing a suspect, they have to consider the circumstances under which the force was used. The requirement is that the officer needs to have probable cause to believe that the suspect could cause bodily harm to them or others (Terrill, 2016). The officer, in this case, has to apply the force to seize the suspect consequently safeguarding their personal security and that of those who could be within the vicinity or at risk of harm by the suspect. The amount of force used on this suspect is however regulated as lethal force is not always necessary to solve the situation.
The Supreme Court of the United States, in Graham’s case, gave guidelines for evaluating the use of force by an officer (Brown, 1990). The list was unexhausted but provided guidelines that allow evaluation of the decision. The first consideration was the severity of the crime at issue. This meant that the officer’s choice to use force to seize a suspect should be considerate of the crime’s significance and meet a certain threshold before the officer opts to use a certain level of force. The severity of the crime can be interpreted by a police officer with ease, for instance, the force applied when handling a drug dealer who is armed cannot be the same as one used on an unarmed driver for over speeding. The guideline here assists the jury and the court to classify the different amount of forces used and compare them to the crime being discussed. This will assist the jury to determine objectively whether the use of force was necessary and if it was reasonable for the specific case (Obasogie et al, 2017).
The second consideration was the threat of the suspect. The officer needs to assess the suspect and determine the capability of the suspect to cause harm to the officer or the surrounding. The officer judgment should be based on a number of factors including possession of weapons and even the mental state of the suspect. These will allow the officer to classify the suspect and hence initiate the appropriate response. The use of force here can be evaluated based on the threat facing the officer as some suspects in a bid to avoid arrest can harm the officer or people within the surrounding. The suspect may be actively harming others and the officer is mandated to stop the suspect by all means necessary.
The level of resistance offered by the suspect is also a consideration when determining whether the force used was lawful. The officer is required to seize the suspect in a situation where an arrest is needed and sometimes for investigation. Legally, the police officer has a right to stop the suspect but the possibility of resistance is envisioned by the law and therefore, the officer is empowered to use reasonable force to restrict the suspect. The amount of force is, however, limited by the extent of resistance offered by the suspect and this is what the court evaluates to determine whether the use of force was lawful.
The above factors are important considerations for a court and jury when determining if a police officer reasonably used force when defending themselves in a case where the suspect has gone to court against the law enforcer. The jury and the court will examine facts around the incidence and then compare against the guidelines and the amount of force used. Consequently, the court will determine whether the force used was necessary as the officer has to protect themselves against any bodily harm.
Stand your ground law asserts that anyone who feels the threat of death or bodily harm to meet force with force rather than retreat. The Castle doctrine advices that an individual does not need to retreat when their home is attacked. The laws allow that if an individual is threatened it is lawful for them to take any action to protect themselves rather than retreat, therefore, providing the citizen with more options to safeguard themselves. In a criminal homicide case, this can effectively defend a homicide suspect. The two laws are based on self-defense and in extreme options the elimination of the perpetrator is a sure way of ensuring the victim is secure. Therefore, the laws can be sited for a suspect whose circumstances meet the level of threat that requires such action and prevents them from being rendered guilty.
Legislative immunity is provided to legislators to shield them from civil liabilities from any statements or remarks made during debates. The immunity is also extended to criminal arrests although they are still subjected to legal action in case of any crimes committed (Fox et al, 2013). Diplomatic immunity is extended to representatives of various nations when they are in a foreign land and this includes their places of residence. The international treaty shields them from the local jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases.
Witness immunity is provided by a prosecutor to key witnesses in situations where a witness is culpable but the prosecutor needs certain information from them that can lead to the conviction of other suspects. In this case, the witness will trade the testimony for information and will, therefore, be exempt from prosecution despite the crime committed. The immunity provided to qualified members is a challenge to the law as it offers protection to citizens and others who break the law. The immunity can in some cases assist in convictions of some criminals whose conviction significantly improves security. The witness immunity can be deemed unfair as the premise of laws is to punish offenders. The witness, in this case, provides vital information that assists the prosecution and is exempted while others are punished for similar crimes.
Entrapment refers to when the authorities coerce an individual into committing a crime. The two elements to entrapment include government inducement of the individual to commit the crime and the individuals lacking the predisposition to engage in criminal conduct. The possibility of entrapment is a reason to evaluate the situation deeply as it happens in some cases especially when the government wants certain individuals arrested but they do not have adequate evidence for conviction (Peters et al, 2013). In such cases, the authorities are frustrated and due to pressure for conviction, they are drawn to coercing the individual into crime.
The three-strike law was made for habitual offenders who after correctional initiatives still return to a life of crime. The law is favourable to the interests of the nation and its citizens. The law is protective of the citizens as it rids the society of habitual offenders who pose a constant threat to the wellbeing of society (Sutton, 2013). The imprisonment will ensure that the perpetrators are off the society and it’s a fair decision as repetition crimes thrice is an indicator that the corrections offered the past two times did not serve as a deterrent from lawbreaking.
Criminal defences are generally controversial matters that spark debate on the choices eventually made by the courts and jury. The different defences applied are necessary as sometimes crime is committed in situations where individuals are not in positions to apply free will or unintentionally and therefore the defences serve to protect them from unfair judgment. However, the same process can be applied by criminals to escape justice and therefore creating controversy whenever such cases have to be determined.
Brown, J. I. (1990). Defining Reasonable Police Conduct: Graham v. Connor and Excessive Force during Arrest. UCLA L. Rev., 38, 1257.
Fox, H., & Webb, P. (2013). The Law of State Immunity. OUP Oxford.
Obasogie, O. K., & Newman, Z. (2017). The Futile Fourth Amendment: Understanding Police Excessive Force Doctrine Through an Empirical Assessment of Graham v. Connor. Nw. UL Rev., 112, 1465.
Peters, C. S., Lampinen, J. M., &Malesky Jr, L. A. (2013). A Trap for The Unwary: Jury Decision Making in Cases Involving the Entrapment Defense. Law and Human Behavior, 37(1), 45.
Retrieved from: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-17894-001
Sutton, J. R. (2013). Symbol and Substance: Effects of California’s Three-Strikes Law on Felony Sentencing. Law & Society Review, 47(1), 37-72.
Terrill, W. (2016). Deadly Force: To Shoot or Not to Shoot. Criminology & Pub. Pol’y, 15, 491.