Deadly force

: force that is intended to cause or that carries a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury
compare nondeadly force in this entry
As a general rule, deadly force may be used without incurring criminal or tort liability when one reasonably believes that one's life or safety is in danger. In some cases, a person's unreasonable belief in the need for deadly force has been used to justify reducing a charge of murder to voluntary manslaughter. Additionally, a police officer is generally justified in using deadly force to prevent the escape of a suspect who threatens the officer or who the officer has probable cause to believe has committed a violent crime.

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Based on Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©2001.
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