"disparity of force" varies. Some states don't have this law.

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Thread: "disparity of force" varies. Some states don't have this law.

  1. #1
    Member Array romansten9's Avatar
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    "disparity of force" varies. Some states don't have this law.

    I sometimes hear the phrase "disparity of force" in which the number of attackers or the type of weapon the attacker is carrying affects the response of the person acting in self defense.

    These laws appear to vary from state to state, and some states do not even mention the phrase "disparity of force" in their laws or even a description of something sounding like this phrase. Yet some people assume that "disparity of force" laws exist everywhere.

    For example, in my state (and others) the law states that deadly force is justified: "when used in lawful self-defense, or in lawful defense of others, if such force is necessary to protect the actor or anyone else against death, serious bodily injury, or the commission of a felony involving violence."

    Obviously, serious bodily injury can be caused by a single, un-armed person. Of course, deadly force would be a last resort. Also, a person that appears to be unarmed may in fact be armed. A person threatening "serious bodily harm" within "21 feet" could cause this harm with their fists, or an unseen weapon. Unfortunately, if attacked in close quarters, a single attacker could present a weapon at any time and it would be difficult to defend against if you are restricted by laws of "disparity of force"

    Any thoughts on what the law says in your state, or how to properly interpret these laws?

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    Quote Originally Posted by romansten9 View Post
    Any thoughts on what the law says in your state, or how to properly interpret these laws?
    It's a bit dated but I found this in an article by Massad Ayoob:

    "Three criteria must be present to create that condition of immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent. These criteria are ability, opportunity, and jeopardy.

    By "ability," we mean that the attacker must have at his command the power to kill or cripple. This will typically be some sort of a weapon, but may also include disparity of force.

    Disparity of force is the situation that authorizes the law-abiding citizen to shoot what appears to be an unarmed man. In this concept, the law recognizes that the power of the attacker to kill or cripple with "body weapons," fists or feet, may be so great vis-a-vis the defender's stature and ability that this disparity of physical force becomes the aggressor's deadly weapon.

    If the attacker is a black belt or a professional fighter and known to your customer as such at the time, he possesses disparity of force. So does an unarmed male violently attacking an unarmed female. So does a gang, and as few as two unarmed assailants can give grounds for justifiable homicide if they attack ferociously enough. However, once all but one have been turned back or neutralized, the sole survivor is no longer a member of a gang and may no longer be shot -- at least, not for that reason.

    A sound and healthy person viciously attacking a cripple, or a strong young man attacking a weak old person, also create disparity of force."
    Article from: Shooting Industry Article date: March 1, 1992
    Author: Ayoob, Massad Copyright

    Explaining the deadly force decision: "self defense in a nutshell." (part 10) (Lethal Force) (Column) - Shooting Industry | HighBeam Research - FREE Article
    "Be justified. Blood may be easily wiped from the sword.
    It cannot, however, be put back from where it came." --Quicksabre

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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    I believe that its recognition as a valid concept is more important than a statute specifying it.

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    Member Array romansten9's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post. I just finished watching a video by Ayoob right before starting this thread (which gave me the idea) but your post clarifies what he said much better. He didn't mention "fists" in the video. He also didn't say anything about the way in which laws vary from state to state. He also seems to imply that "disparity of force" is law everywhere. I'd be interested in knowing how this phrase is worded in those states that have it, since there is nothing about it where I live.

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    VIP Member Array mlr1m's Avatar
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    In the end wouldn't the disparity of force be decided by a jury? We need to work to bring about juries that believe that no person should have to take a beating. All other things being equal if person A decides to harm person B. Person B should not be restricted in the defense they are allowed to put up. The attacker should not be able to set the rules of a unprovoked fight he starts.

    Michael

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    VIP Member Array cmdrdredd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlr1m View Post
    In the end wouldn't the disparity of force be decided by a jury? We need to work to bring about juries that believe that no person should have to take a beating. All other things being equal if person A decides to harm person B. Person B should not be restricted in the defense they are allowed to put up. The attacker should not be able to set the rules of a unprovoked fight he starts.

    Michael
    It depends on the state. In FL for example, if it's determined you were in self defense and had reasonable fear of having harm done upon you then you're clear. No court at all.

    It says nothing about someone punching you vs coming at you with a bat or crow bar. The law here simply states things about having fear of great bodily harm done upon you or someone else or you prevent the commission of a forced felony. You also do not have to flee or look for an exit, you are free to stand your ground so to speak.

    Personally I don't feel that someone punching me or attempting to do so is a good reason to fire my weapon at them. I'm not even 100% sure on the laws in this area here because I've never seen a case of such a thing come up. Typically someone defends themselves against a robbery or serious threat with a weapon involved, from what I've seen. I would guess, but again i do not know, that it would be up to the officer responding to the scene to determine what to put in the report. Did you legitimately defend yourself or not?
    No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    Laws are restrictive but sometimes necessary to maintain a civil society. Rights are nonrestrictive but are always necessary to maintain a free society.

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    Good post by Quicksaber

    There is no such thing as a "disparity of force law."

    To put it another way from what Quicksaber said, is that it's more of a "mitigating factor" which would allow someone to be excused from murder, where he otherwise would not have been based on the type of force or way force was being used against him by someone who may be otherwise, unarmed.

    A good example
    would be trying to defend yourself in a fight in which you did not start, provoke or otherwise instigate. At the moment you are both fighting unarmed. Although you have ccw gun holstered in an IWB on your hip, I will point out that while you are afraid of being seriously hurt and haven't been in a fist fight since you were in grade school, the aggressor is basically the same age, height and weight of you. You know full well, that the courts generally frown on people who go around shooting unarmed people, even if the other person was the aggressor. And thus, instead of pulling your gun and shooting him before he even lay's a hand on you, you choose to defend yourself the best way you can. And because of that you find yourself in the middle of a fist fight.

    So, now you are getting your butt kicked... In fact, you get knocked down on the ground and maybe bleeding from your lip with a couple of loose teeth. You are having a hard time breathing through your nose because it is swollen shut and may be broken. Your eyes are stinging, watery and blurred because of the broken nose and blood is all over your shirt. Now instead of walking away from you clearly as the victor, the guy starts kicking you in the ribs, stomach and has kicked you in the face and essentially stomping you into the ground.

    Now things have changed significantly. You are now down on the ground trapped against a hard surface where your body can no longer absorb the blows the way it could while you were standing and able to recoil against the hits. The aggressor is now literally stomping you into the dirt where the outcome is almost certainly permanent and serious injuries if not death. He is still unarmed, however, because of such "disparity," if you were to pull your gun and shoot him, you could argue that you were, at that point reasonably in fear of your life or crippling injury and that shooting the unarmed man was a legitimate act of self defense.

    The "disparity of force" used by the man who was stomping you into the ground and against a hard surface could reasonably be considered as doing internal organ damage, cause internal bleeding and having a better than average chance of being fatal or leave you crippled, might allow the use of lethal force to be considered "justified" in order to stop the attack from the unarmed man.

    Had you remained standing, able to recoil from the hits, and your body capable of absorbing the blows, even though you had a split lip and quite possibly a broken nose, the courts likely would not view that as serious crippling injury, but injuries which while painful, one could easily recover from and would not necessarily accept the use of lethal force in defense against such an attack.

    Now I'm not talking about a 62 year old man with a heart condition or a hip replacement against a 42 year old man. I'm not even talking about an otherwise "healthy" 62 year old man against a 35 year old man, for all you members out there who say, I can't take an asswhippin because of this or that reason.

    I'm talking about an unarmed aggressor who is of relative equal size, age and stature.

    I hope this helps gives you a little insight of how disparity of force play's a role in an attack against you. Not that there's any "Disparity of Force" law.

    There are many other ways of how "disparity of force" can play a role in a self defense situation such as "force of numbers" in which you face a group of people wishing to beat you down and rob or kill you even though none of them possess any visible weapons other than a disproportional number of people.

    Another example would be if you had some sort of medical condition or impairment in which an altercation with an unarmed assailant would likely cripple you for life, even if you are of the same size and age as the aggressor. In such cases, it does not have to be apparent to the aggressor who attacks you, nor to you have to tell him about it. It's just his tough luck to have picked on such a person.

    However, that medical condition had better be well documented and witnesses for your behalf, ie, your medical doctor, surgeon, or cardiologist had better be prepared to prove it and convince a reasonable person of your frailty because a case like that will likely go to trial. However if the jury believes your medical condition, you could likely be excused from committing murder and be ruled as a justified self defense based on the "disparity of force" used against you.

    Remember, when claiming there was a "disparity of force" involved in your decision to defend yourself using lethal force, you must still be in a state of fear of immediate and otherwise unavoidable death or serious crippling injury at the time of the incident... and a reasonable man of the same physical capacity as you, in the same situation must share your same conclusion.

    Good luck, learn how issues such as "disparity of force" affect the rules of self defense, and stay safe.
    -Bark'n
    Semper Fi


    "The gun is the great equalizer... For it is the gun, that allows the meek to repel the monsters; Whom are bigger, stronger and without conscience, prey on those who without one, would surely perish."

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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    Mostly very good. One thing I would add is that in some areas the attack with the shod foot of someone on the ground is ADW, which would in and of itself allow a higher response.

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    Member Array romansten9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bark'n View Post
    Good post by Quicksaber

    There is no such thing as a "disparity of force law."
    Thanks for your response. You made some good points. But, I wish things were that "cut and dried" What I mean is, if someone starts punching you they probably don't care how fair the fight is. I doubt they will back off after knocking you to the ground. They could knock you out with the first punch, and then what? They could take your gun and shoot you with it. Or at any time they could pull their own knife or gun. What I'm saying is that there is no safe way to enter a fist fight with someone if you or they have a weapon. There is no referee that can monitor the fairness of the fight and stop it when one person is starting to suffer great "bodily harm."

    I agree, I would not immediately shoot someone that came at me with their fists. But there would be situations in which I would be forced to draw my gun and tell them to back off. (for example, if I was cornered in a remote area) If they continued, I could only assume that they meant to attack me with their hands or a hidden weapon. Either one could cause me great bodily harm. Anyone within 20 feet could run up and choke me, knock me out, stab me, grab my gun or all of the above. I just don't think your "wait and see" idea is going to fly in real life. I'm not going to wait and hope I'm still conscious after being knocked to the ground. That would be way too late.

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    Member Array Laser Sailor's Avatar
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    So, now you are getting your butt kicked...
    This is why a non-lethal option is always a good thing to have. Because I don't ever want it to come to this point. I won't fight unarmed unless I absolutely have to. I will employ OC on an aggressor before they can lay a hand on me.

    Is this the cheap or unmanly way to win a fight? Maybe, but I don't care. I only care about winning.

    ". . . fighting not good. But if must fight... win." - Mr. Miyagi
    MA2, USN

    When only cops have guns, it's called a "police state". Love your country, but never trust its government.
    -- Robert A. Heinlein.

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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    There are a number of non lethal options, oc, stun guns, expandables, saps, etc, that where legal, could be of use.

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    VIP Member Array Sig 210's Avatar
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    In the end wouldn't the disparity of force be decided by a jury?

    Not in all states in all cases. This big dumb kid was caught burglarizing a home in Lawton, Comance county, OK. He attacked the son of the homeowner and was killed. Our prosecutor did not take the case to the grand jury.

    Cache teenager killed after attempted burglary; 911 tape released - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

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    VIP Member Array Guantes's Avatar
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    I suspect that if you are in the middle of committing a felony, you can kiss disparity of force good bye.

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