May 24, 2022

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In Depth Tactical Solutions

Is Justified Lethal Force Really Justified or Is It Just Me Saying So?

10 min read

This article will address the three phase breakdown of a deadly force encounter within a residence wherein at least one of the homeowners/residents has previously purchased a firearm for home protection.

Let us lay the groundwork with an opening question. Do we legally and/or morally have the right to protect our property from theft or imminent destruction? In some states, the legal right does exist for us to involve a firearm in our quest to protect personal property. Does this mean we should?

Phase One. Purchasing a firearm for home defense and/or defense of one’s self and significant others does not necessarily translate to your willingness to use it in a deadly force confrontation. Realistically, prior to purchasing a firearm for this purpose, the question begs to be asked.

Do you have it within yourself to use a firearm to defend yourself in an encounter with an armed intruder?

Before you answer in the affirmative, be careful. You are about to encounter a set of physical and neurological conditions that will greatly affect your ability judge time, space, vision and auditory exclusion. This is collectively known as Tachypsychia which is a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. It is sometimes referred to by martial arts instructors and self-defense experts as the Tachy Psyche Effect. For someone affected by Tachypsychia, time perceived by the individual either lengthens, making events appear to slow down, or contracts, objects appearing as moving in a speeding blur. It is believed that tachypsychia is induced by a combination of high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, usually during periods of great physical stress and/or in violent confrontation. What are the physical effects?

Also called the “fight or flight” response of the body to an event our mind considers life-threatening, Tachypsychia is believed to include numerous physical changes.

1) Adrenaline response

Upon being stimulated by fear or anger, the adrenal medulla may automatically produce the hormone epinephrine (aka adrenaline) directly into the blood stream. This can have various effects on various bodily systems, including:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure. It is common for a Tachypsychia subject’s pulse to rise to between 200 and 300 beats per minute (bpm). Increased heart rate (above 250 bpm) can cause fainting, and the body may adduct all limbs, adopting fetal position, in preparation for a coma.
  • Dilation of the bronchial passages, permitting higher absorption of oxygen.
  • Dilated pupils to allow more light to enter, and visual exclusion—tunnel vision—occurs, allowing greater focus but resulting in the loss of peripheral vision.
  • Release of glucose into the bloodstream, generating extra energy by raising the blood sugar level.

It is common for an individual to experience auditory exclusion or sensitivity. It is also common for individuals to experience an increased pain tolerance, loss of color vision, short term memory loss, decreased fine motor skills, decreased communication skills, or decreased coordination.

The most common experience during Tachypsychia is the feeling that time has either increased or slowed down, brought on by the increased brain activity cause by epinephrine, or the severe decrease in brain activity caused by the “catecholamine washout” occurring after the event.

It is common for an individual experiencing Tachypsychia to have serious misinterpretations of their surroundings during the events, through a combination of their altered perception of time, as well as transient partial color blindness and tunnel vision. After the irregularly high levels of adrenaline consumed during sympathetic nervous system activation, an individual may display signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it is common for the person to display extreme emotional lability and fatigue, regardless of their actual physical exertion.

It is possible to manage Tachypsychia still occurring after the event, and it is common for soldiers and martial artists to use Tachypsychia in order to increase their performance during stressful situations.

You will need to understand all of the above before you actually become involved in a deadly force encounter. Your hearing will be gone. You will experience acute tunnel vision. Your ability to judge space and time will be gone as will your ability to reliably count the number of rounds either you or the armed intruders have discharged if any. It is critical that all of the above factors be understood beforehand.

Phase One additionally includes the development of a plan in the event of a break in. You may choose to assume any and all intruders are armed. The difference is that when confronted by an unauthorized and visually unarmed intruder in your home, what are your options?

  • Disparity of Force. Deadly force cannot be used unless the victim is in fear of deadly force. This usually requires the presence of a weapon. However, sometimes a significant disparity in the strength or fighting ability between the parties is accepted as a substitute weapon. The factors establishing a disparity of force include:
  • Age
  • Overwhelming size
  • Overwhelming strength
  • Force of Numbers
  • Advanced skill in unarmed combat
  • Many commentators add males against females as a category. Size, strength and aggression are typically male attributes, but not exclusively. There are women who can beat down the average man. It is accepted that women are more successful with this defense than are men.

In the best of all worlds, a jury in a criminal proceeding must make their judgment based upon what has come to be known as the ‘Reasonable Man Theory.’ What would a ‘reasonable man’ do or say under the conditions put before the court? If you are confronted by two adult males in your home who appear to be unarmed, what are your options under Disparity of Force? As a woman under these circumstances, the concept of disparity of force works in your favor wherein you are within your rights to defend yourself with deadly force. As a male in the same situation, how will you come out of it if you have reason to believe your life is in danger of grievous bodily harm or death? Do you legally have the right to use or display deadly force? If one assailant exits the scene and you are now confronting one seemingly unarmed individual, the concept of Disparity of Force no longer exists in the eyes of the court.

As part of your Phase One Program, the plan(s) you make may have to be altered slightly though the basic concepts must remain. There is a very real possibility you may get caught out in the open and unable to get to your previously arranged ‘safe room’. There are self-defense experts who strongly recommend that if you have chosen to maintain firearms for home defense it would be wise to have one available to you in different parts of your home. This is your choice.

It is in your best interests as part of your Phase One preparation to develop as much information as possible on the subject of justifiable lethal force. Selecting legal counsel after the incident has occurred is a mistake. It will be a quick and arbitrary choice based upon the first criminal defense attorney you find and the experience of that firm in justifiable lethal force cases  may be minimal at best. Additionally, the law firm you do choose after the fact will see the urgency and will charge you accordingly. Select a competent criminal defense attorney with documented experience in justifiable lethal force cases before the incident occurs. Make this attorney/law firm aware of all documented information you have gathered and read on the subject of deadly force, justifiable lethal force and all involved subjects. This information can be used in court by your attorney to substantiate the reasons why you acted in the manner you did. Information presented to your attorney after the incident occurs is generally not accepted as it has no bearing on the actions you took or did not take.

Phase Two. Breakin in progress. Immediately implement your plan understanding that all of the above will quickly begin to affect your actions and/or inactions. Based entirely upon the progression of the incident, you may or may not have cause to discharge your firearm.

The only justifiable reason you have for discharging a firearm in the direction of another human being is your belief that the armed intruder(s) have exhibited the means and intent to cause you grave bodily harm or death.

Remember. Even though some areas do provide the legal right for you to use deadly force to protect property, the details found in Phase Three will give you cause to stand down.

During the course of Phase Two, keep in mind that just because you are legally within your right to discharge your firearm for the purpose of defending yourself in a deadly force encounter does not mean you are under any legal obligation to do so.   If you are able to contain the situation by holding the individual(s) at gunpoint until law enforcement arrives without firing a shot, then do so. Make sure, however, that law enforcement knows before their arrival what your location is in the residence  along with a physical description of yourself and the fact you are currently holding armed intruders at gunpoint awaiting their arrival. To the best of your ability, provide them a description of the intruders. Remember the Tachypsychia effects from above. Do not seek to replicate what you have seen on television or the movies. Yelling, “Freeze” does not work. Go for a hard consonant sound such as, “Don’t Move. Drop your weapon(s)” Give law enforcement permission ahead of time to breach any points of entry they deem necessary to safely and effectively enter your location.

It is the job and responsibility of arriving law enforcement officers to control the situation. So, do not be surprised to see their weapons aimed at you along with shouted directions to not move and drop your weapon. Remember. They do not know you and you very well may be one of the armed intruders they were called about who had just turned the tables on the homeowner. Once you have dropped your weapon, expect to be searched for any hidden weapons. Once they are convinced of your identity, understand that you are under no legal obligation to speak without the presence of legal counsel even when you have not discharged a firearm. You have heard it said time and again. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law and even if you have not been arrested and Mirandized, refrain from speaking until you have had the opportunity to calm down and have spoken with your legal counsel. A supposed ‘friendly’ discussion between yourself and arriving officers can result in you being arrested based entirely on the statements you make.

If you have in fact discharged a firearm at one or more of the armed intruders for the purpose of stopping them from placing your life in danger and those shots you fired have in fact stopped them from proceeding with their actions, everything you say to arriving law enforcement will be recorded on paper at the scene. You may even be arrested. This is when anything you say regarding the incident can turn a justifiable lethal force situation into a charge of homicide or murder. You may or may not be criminally charged. If so, contact your legal counsel immediately or instruct a family member or other trusted individual to do so.

If charged, you will be taken into custody to await arraignment and bail hearing. If you cannot make bail, you will more than likely be remanded until your court date. In order to legally represent you, your legal counsel will not be acting pro bono. Defending even a seemingly cut and dried case of justifiable self defense can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and even if you are acquitted, expect to be civilly sued by the family of the armed intruder(s) whom you shot in self defense.  Even if you win the criminal case, you can still end up being successfully sued for an exorbitant sum.

Phase Three. Even if you were not forced to discharge your firearm, expect to suffer from varied degrees of psychological and even physical trauma. Sleepless nights, vomiting, shortness of breath and rapid pulse rate when the incident comes into your mind are among the most common. Do not be ashamed to seek help in the form of a psychiatrist, psychologist or other competent professional. For all intents and purposes, you will be experiencing the same symptoms which make up post traumatic stress disorder. Common among both active duty combat soldiers and law enforcement personnel whom have had to use their own firearm(s) during the course of their job.

In conclusion, will you be able to justify using a firearm to defend yourself in a deadly force situation? What may be justified in the eyes of the law man not be justifiable to you and/or your family given all of the above.

note: This article contains the opinions of the guest writer and is not necessarily the opinion of Spotter Up

With a distinct focus on the design, development and  effective use of the shotgun in all of its variants, safety is a constant and consistent factor. From a very early age, Mr. Muse has received focused training from members of the United States Marine Corps, United States Army Special Forces personnel as well as instructor level training and certification from Lethal Force Institute, Chapman Academy and Gunsite wherein all training was overseen by the late Col. Jeff Cooper (USMC ret.). Additionally, Mr. Muse has been active in the past in both High Power Rifle Competition and a former Class A rated shooter within IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) using a modified for competition Springfield Armory 1911 .45 ACP firearm designed by Wilson Combat. All of the above training has encompassed tactical use of the handgun, rifle and tactical shotgun under high stress and normal range situations. *Mr. Muse-Pseudonym

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