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California May Change Law Enforcement’s Reasonable Force Standard

Jul 13, 2018 by Mike McKneely in Criminal Defense

A law that could make the state a national leader on the subject of police effort is in discussion in California. A committee in the state Senate has recently advanced a piece of legislation that would affect when police would be allowed to use deadly force. Essentially, a law enforcement officer would only be able to use potentially fatal methods in a situation where it is necessary to prevent imminent injury or death. The reasonable force standard has been a hotly-contested issue. The prospect of this legal adjustment in California originates from several police killings over the past year. The media heavily covered the actions of law enforcement that resulted in the death of African-American men. For example, in one situation police opened fire on Stephon Clark after they mistook the cell phone in his hand for a gun.

If you’re in the Fresno area and need defense representation, contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer today. The process of a criminal investigation is extensive and an attorney at our firm will ensure no one is taking advantage of you. Fill out our online form, or call (559) 443-7442 to speak to a Fresno criminal defense attorney today.

The Standard Was Due For an Update

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced the updated legislation stating that the reasonable force standard had not been updated in California since 1872. Which is the longest amount of time any law regarding the use of force has remained unchanged in the United States. Democrats supporting the measure have been vocal about the need for an update. They say that the use-of-force laws should be motivated by the desire to protect lives.

As the law is now, law enforcement officers are seldom charged or punished if they’re involved in a shooting. Even if they are charged, law enforcement officers are rarely convicted for using excessive force. This is due, in small part, to California’s current standard of needing reasonable fear to justify the use deadly force. By that standard, any officer who has a reasonable belief that they should fear for their safety are allowed to use deadly force against a suspect. Unsurprisingly, this leaves a lot of room for debate. Whether or not an officer’s fear for their safety was reasonable is a highly subjective concept. The hope is that an updated doctrine helps both officers and suspects avoid scenarios that place their respective lives in danger.

The Goal of the New Standard: Less Escalation

Supporters of California’s current reasonable force standard second guess the effects the new law will have. They think officers may be less likely to take necessary action because they will be too concerned with how that action will be perceived. Thus putting themselves and others at risk. Those who favor the new legislation acknowledge that law enforcement officers have a difficult job. These supporters say, the new law would lessen that difficulty and lead to fewer life-threatening situations. As there is currently a troublingly high number of minority suspects who end up dead after encounters with police. The new standard supporters believe that a higher threshold requirement for deadly force would decrease the danger of lives being lost.

Contact a Fresno Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Today

If you’re part of a criminal investigation in California that relates to the current or proposed reasonable force standard, get in touch with Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer to right away. By enlisting the help of an experienced attorney at our firm, you’ll remain informed about all aspects of your case. Call (559) 443-7442 or use our online form to schedule a free evaluation of your case today.

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