Does the law see a knife as "lethal force?"


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Patrick Henry
July 29, 2008, 07:01 PM
When we consider when "lethal force" is justified under our laws, we are usually thinking of guns.

But I think there is no dispute that, properly employed, a knife is a lethal weapon. There is a common statistic that about 60% of knifing victims die of their wounds while only about 40% of gunshot (pistol) victims die.

Modern society is gun-paranoid. There are restrictions placed on the use of guns which do not apply to other weapons. For example, every jurisdiction has laws against brandishing a firearm, but few I think have brandishing prohibitions against other weapons. Even pulling a gun in self-defense to prevent an attack from taking place can get you charged with brandishing. The law doesn't seem to appreciate that producing a gun has the potential to stop violence before it escalates to deadly levels.

The question that occurred to me is this: assuming you were carrying a knife, and you were violently attacked by someone using only his fists, would you be legally justified in using the knife? I think in that same situation, though one's life may be in danger (it is quite easy to kill someone with bare hands), you would be prosecuted for even producing a gun, because the assailant was "unarmed."

In other words, you are in fear for your life and use your knife to stop the attack by the unarmed attacker . Generally speaking, do you think you would get in as much legal trouble as if you had used a gun?

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20nickels
July 29, 2008, 07:05 PM
In short, yes. I don't believe it is considered any less lethal than a firearm and is cause for an officer to use lethal force on the knife bearer.

Carl Levitian
July 29, 2008, 07:34 PM
When disparity of force comes into play, one could get away with using a knife. A 70 year old man attacked in a strong arm robbery by a young fit guy, and he gets a knife out and stabs his attacker, is not going to face any trouble in most cases. Exept in England of course.

Jim March
July 29, 2008, 07:35 PM
Absolutely a knife is lethal force, and considered so under the law.

I know of one exception. In Turkey (yeah, the country) if you stab somebody in the BUTT, it's not considered a lethal attack. For good reason, actually, the femorals run on the opposite side of the pelvis.

This has led to a very annoying problem in Turkish prisons giving the term "Turkish Surprise" a whole new (oww!) meaning :).

Now...like I say, medically this is supportable. I have no idea how this would play out in an American court, where you butt-stabbed some nut and ran away while he hobbled after you. IF you can line up medical experts, and IF he does (as expected) make a full and rapid recovery, then...yeah, MAYBE.

I wouldn't try it unless I was pretty damn desperate...

Patrick Henry
July 29, 2008, 07:49 PM
In short, yes.

Yes, using the knife would be justified or yes, you would likely be considered the criminal?

HIcarry
July 29, 2008, 07:49 PM
IANAL, but if I recall correctly, almost anthing can be a deadly weapon given the correct circumstances. However, bringing a firearm out in a confrontation will almost always be considered "deadly force" regardless if it were actually fired in SD. The issue will likely be if in brandishing the firearm, the level of the threat you perceived was reasonably interpreted (based on your particular state's laws) as meeting the criteria for use of said deadly force. At least that's how I understand the general use of deadly force in SD.

mgkdrgn
July 29, 2008, 07:59 PM
"Does the law see a knife as "lethal force?"

YES!!!

Anything you can possibly do grievous bodly harm with can/will be considered "deadly force". Knives, butter knives, sporks, baseball bats, pipes, corkscrews, small portable TV's, pillows ....

tpaw
July 29, 2008, 08:01 PM
The question that occurred to me is this: assuming you were carrying a knife, and you were violently attacked by someone using only his fists, would you be legally justified in using the knife?

If you have reasonable cause to believe that the guy was going to cause you serious physical injury or death, yes, the knife is justified. The law does not state that you have to allow yourself to be beaten to death by someone who can over power you. Pick up anything, a bat, pipe, rock, or whatever you can, and use it to save your life. If it's at all possible, retreat from the fight. There is nothing cowardly about running away to save your life. Every state has it's own laws and you should familiarize yourself with them. They can vary to some degree from state to state.

Grey_Mana
July 29, 2008, 09:49 PM
I read up on knife laws recently. I recommend looking through the knife forums for detailed discussions, rather than the strategy forum.

Non-firearm weapons (http://www.thehighroad.org/forumdisplay.php?f=13).

Hoplophile
July 29, 2008, 11:47 PM
God yes.

strambo
July 30, 2008, 12:17 AM
I don't know why there is a common tendency to complicate things with scenarios and "what ifs." It is simple: If you are prepared for your opponent to die and those consequences (whether they actually die or not) and you are prepared for the legal system to treat you like you were prepared to kill them...then by all means grab a knife (gun, club, tire iron...any other tool the legal system would commonly view as a "deadly weapon").

Even simpler: If you wouldn't feel justified saying "...so then I stabbed him in the neck" in a situation, then you shouldn't use a knife.

jasonguerard
July 30, 2008, 12:29 AM
Here in Georgia we can conceal a gun with a permit, but there is no legal way to carry a knife concealed. :confused:
Perhaps they consider it more lethal, which matches your statistics.
Even simpler: If you wouldn't feel justified saying "...so then I stabbed him in the neck" in a situation, then you shouldn't use a knife.
Or a gun for that matter.

hso
July 30, 2008, 12:59 AM
A knife is a deadly weapon when used as a weapon.
It's use is treated as use of lethal force.
All the rules apply for a knife as for a gun wrt justification for the use of one in self defense.

rkba_net
July 30, 2008, 06:59 AM
Deadly force is just that... it does really matter in the eye of the LAW what weapon you use... that being said use of a knife OR worse yet a razor gives the impression of illegality to many people... and some of those people might be on YOUR jury or grand jury. I disagree on your stats for the lethality of knives... IMHO it usually goes more like this

Long Arms about 40%

Handguns 20%

Knives less than 5%

Deanimator
July 30, 2008, 08:23 AM
The law certainly considers a knife "deadly force".

So did my godsister's boyfriend. It's why he chose one to use to stab her to death.

Anybody who thinks that anything except a gun isn't deadly force can ask her... if they know how to run a seance.

K-Romulus
July 30, 2008, 11:39 AM
"Deadly force" is defined by causing the likelihood of either (1) death or (2) serious bodily injury.

This means that the use of a cutting-type of instrument would constitute "deadly force" under the #2 definition, and why you (probably) would be found justified in shooting someone who was attacking you with a box cutter.

Zip7
July 30, 2008, 12:00 PM
Here in Georgia we can conceal a gun with a permit, but there is no legal way to carry a knife concealed.

Really? That's ridiculous. I carry a knife concealed everywhere I go - even when I'm in Georgia (which isn't very often). I don't carry a knife for the purpose of SD though - mainly to cut stuff.

I tend to think of a knife as a tool, and the SD aspect of it always catches me off guard. I carry a Case stockman most of the time, so its kind of a stretch to imagine whipping it out in a SD situation.

I guess I'm an outlaw, though...

XDKingslayer
July 30, 2008, 12:09 PM
In other words, you are in fear for your life and use your knife to stop the attack by the unarmed attacker . Generally speaking, do you think you would get in as much legal trouble as if you had used a gun?

Lethal force has nothing to do with weapons. It's the amount of force, or physical damage you apply to someone.

Lethal force can be dealt with bare hands just as easily as it can a gun or a knife. You're going to go through the same process regardless of what weapon you use.

pioneer461
July 30, 2008, 04:50 PM
We've all heard about the folly of taking a knife to a gun-fight, but a knife or other edged instrument is most definitely a deadly weapon. If nothing else, that was proved on Sept. 11th, 2001. I've never heard of a U.S. jurisdiction that says otherwise.

http://i204.photobucket.com/albums/bb294/pioneer461/police.png

XDKingslayer
July 30, 2008, 04:53 PM
You guys seem to think he's asking if a knife is a deadly weapon. Read his last paragraph.

He wants to know if he's going to get in more or less trouble if he uses a knife to defend himself instead of a gun.

azredhawk44
July 30, 2008, 06:00 PM
I've heard that prosecutors typically interpret slashing wounds as defensive knife use, and stabbing wounds as offensive knife use. They're supposedly more likely to attempt prosecution if you stab an attacker than if you slash him to drive him off.

Don't know how true that is though.

ctdonath
July 30, 2008, 06:24 PM
Modern society is gun-paranoid.
Every society has its hobgoblins, real or imagined.

Depending on the specific wording of law in a given jurisdiction, a knife may or may not get you in more trouble than a gun. Everywhere both will be viewed as "lethal force", but in some is addressed in law as more heinous.

In GA, a knife would likely get you in more trouble as they are broadly prohibited, and "redneck culture" is more forgiving of shooting assailants.
In many jurisdictions, enhanced penalties are decreed if you use a firearm and are not cleared.

I guess the answer to the question is: generally speaking, a knife will get you in less trouble - IF you are convicted. Penalties, if applied, will be enhanced if a firearm is used.

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