Georgia law grants the use of three different types of force to those who wish to protect themselves or others: threats of force, force, and deadly force. What’s the difference?
Threats of force (“Stay back!”; “Stop, or I will defend myself!”) and force (pushing, kicking, punching, slapping, etc.) may be used when a person “believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force”. see O.C.G.A. §16-3-21. In other words, you may use physical force to repel another’s “unlawful force”, physical contact you do not consent to, and may additionally do the same to protect any other person: the law in Georgia, after all, is entitled the “Defense of Self or Others”. Any person who uses such force to repel an unlawful contact is free from criminal responsibility or civil liability for harm resulting to his or her aggressor during the act.
Use Of A Weapon While Protecting Yourself
The law in Georgia goes further, however, permitting the use of deadly force in certain circumstances when there is a belief death or great injury is imminent.
A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably; however . . . a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21
Deadly force is that kind of force that causes “death or great bodily injury”, either to you or to a person you wish to protect. If you were to kill someone by the use of a weapon while protecting yourself or another person, you have used what is known as deadly force.
What Is “Reasonable”?
The law states that one may be justified in using deadly force when there is a reasonable belief that such force is necessary. What is “reasonable”, however, depends on the specific circumstances of each individual case, and must be viewed on a case-by-case basis. Because there is no exact definition of what may be “reasonable”, it is possible that deadly force may be used even when it is not reasonable or necessary, and therefore may properly be considered a crime.
In such a case, have you committed a crime, or does the law protect you because you were protecting yourself or others? Controversy has historically surrounded Georgia’s definition of deadly force and the criminal cases where it plays a part. Some believe that it has allowed murder suspects to go unpunished, while others say it is the best deterrent to crime.