Lesson 3: Use of Force Upon Another Person

Erica Fisher CWL Courses

Scenario One:

Someone who is unlawfully in your house, runs outside when you discover them. Students in handgun safety classes sometimes state: “I am going shoot them and drag them back inside my house.”

Shoot – If you justify your decision to shoot the person who fled from your home on the sole fact that he was unlawfully in it, you likely do not have sufficient legal justification to use deadly force. Even though you may use force against a person if you believe that person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary of a dwelling, the use of deadly force is only justified when the facts reasonably indicate that the intruder intends to cause serious physical injury or death to you or another. Once the person has fled your home, there is likely no further justification for the use of force or deadly force, unless the person has demonstrated that he continues to pose a danger to the public. For instance, such danger may be indicated if the perpetrator fires a handgun while fleeing, or threatened you with a weapon before fleeing.

Don’t Shoot – Correct for the reason set forth in the previous paragraph.

Scenario Two:

In the middle of the night you hear a noise and get up to investigate. You look down your hallway and see a person standing in your living room. You make an announcement from your bedroom door, stating “I have called 911, and I have a gun, get out.” The person turns away from you and runs out the door with your TV.

Shoot – Incorrect. The person immediately fled out of the residence and no longer posed a deadly threat so shooting the person would not be justified under Idaho Code 19-202A. You may be found criminally and/or civilly liable for your decision.

Don’t Shoot – Correct. Once the intruder fled, he did not display any intent, means and opportunity to cause any serious physical injury or death to you or anyone else.

Scenario Three:

Same basic facts as Scenario Two. When you make the statement about calling 911, having a gun, and order him to get out, you turn on the hall light. The person then drops the TV, pulls a knife from his pocket and begins walking towards you with a fixed stare.

Shoot – Did the person by word or conduct have the intent to cause you serious physical injury or death?

  • Yes. He demonstrated his intent by removing the knife from his pocket, dropping the TV and walking in your direction.

Did the person have the means to cause you serious physical injury or death?

  • Yes. He had a knife.

Did the person have the opportunity?

  • Yes. He was down the hallway, closing distance and there were no impenetrable obstacles between you and the person.

Your actions will likely be found to be justified because the offender was in your home committing a felony. The mere fact that the person is in your home uninvited presumes that he has entered with the intent to commit a felony. Idaho Code 18-4009 (2) The evaluation of intent, means and opportunity is provided to add insight into your assessment, but it is not necessary to use deadly force in the example above.

Don’t Shoot – Deciding whether to take another human being’s life is a personal choice and choosing not to shoot is always an option. In this situation, your personal safety is at serious risk, and you should clearly take some immediate action to protect yourself.   Regardless of whether you would personally decide to shoot in this situation, as discussed in the previous paragraph, the decision to shoot appears to be legally defensible.

Idaho is a “stand your ground” state so you are not required to retreat if you have a right to be there. I.C. 19-202A Under these circumstances, there is a strong argument that the use of deadly force would be justified.

Scenario Four:

David cuts you off in traffic. David pulls into a nearby gas station and gets out of his vehicle to go inside. You quickly pull up and begin yelling at David, and aggressively approach him. David defends himself as you initiate a fist fight with him. As David begins to gain the advantage over you, you realize you are losing the fight so you draw your weapon and shoot David, killing him.

Justified? Although David cut you off first, you were the initial aggressor in the altercation, and the first one to use physical force. You provoked the fight with David and he was only using the amount of force necessary to defend himself from you. Your use of deadly force would not likely be found to be justified.

You may be found criminally and/or civilly liable for this decision.

Not Justified – Correct for the reasons set forth in the previous paragraph.

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