When Can Police Act in Self-Defense Against a Person Wielding a Knife?

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Hartford weapons charges defense lawyerIn recent years, the use of deadly force by police officers has become a major concern for people throughout the United States. Police shootings occur regularly, and they often result in the deaths of suspects, including people who were unarmed or those who potentially could have been subdued by other means. In some cases, police are authorized to use deadly force against those who are wielding knives or other weapons. To avoid becoming a victim in these types of situations, those who could be arrested on criminal charges related to knives or other weapons will want to understand when police officers are permitted to use deadly force.

Recent Appeals Court Decision Illustrates When Deadly Force May Be Used

A case that was recently heard in the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals involved an incident in which police officers killed a man who was armed with a knife. The man committed “suicide by cop” in which he called 911 and falsely reported an assault by a man with a knife. When two officers arrived at the scene, he ran toward them while carrying a knife, and the officers opened fire. He was fatally wounded after being shot 10 times.

The man’s survivors pursued a civil rights lawsuit against the officers, but their case was dismissed by a district judge, who ruled that the officers’ use of deadly force was justified. The appeals court reviewed the case and looked at some of the key facts of the issue, including whether officers followed what is known as the “21-foot rule.” This is not an actual rule followed by police departments, but more of a guideline that states that a person carrying a knife or a similar deadly weapon may present a threat if they are within 21 feet of an officer, and this may justify the use of deadly force.

In the case in question, the officers opened fire when the man was 55 feet away from them, and when he fell down after being shot, he was still 18 feet away. However, the majority of the appeals court judges agreed that the officers’ actions were justified, and the district judge’s decision was upheld.

Connecticut Laws Regarding Knives and Deadly Force

In Connecticut, it is illegal to carry a knife with a blade that is more than four inches long, as well as other types of dangerous weapons such as brass knuckles, blackjacks, or switchblades. Violation of this law is a Class E felony.

Police officers in Connecticut are allowed to use deadly physical force to defend themselves or others from imminent danger that would put them at risk of death. Deadly force is also authorized when arresting a suspect or to prevent them from escaping if an officer reasonably believes the suspect has committed or attempted to commit a felony involving the infliction of serious injuries or the threat to do so.

Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested on charges related to carrying or using a knife or other deadly weapon, or if you have been the victim of excessive force by police officers during an arrest,  the Woolf Law Firm, LLC can advise you of your rights and provide you with legal representation during your case. Contact our Hartford criminal defense attorney today at 860-290-8690 to arrange a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://www.police1.com/legal/articles/new-knife-attack-decision-court-ponders-how-far-is-close-enough-to-be-an-immediate-threat-EVKm7zBreo2oKUmm/

https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_943.htm#sec_53-206

https://portal.ct.gov/DESPP/Division-of-State-Police/Transparency-Portal/Deadly-Use-of-Force-FAQs

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