use the force


Standard disclaimer.

David Prowse as Darth Vader in The Empire Stri...
David Prowse as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • I am not an attorney. This is for informational purposes only and is NOT to be mistaken for legal or professional advise.
  • Any opinions I write here are my own and do not represent the views of any agency that employees me.
  • If you have any personal legal concerns, contact a qualified attorney. 
  • I’m from New York and am only familiar with NY Law. These writings are based on that experience. Other States have different laws but many similarities at the root.

Whenever you are trying to interpret what a legal statute means it is very important to understand what the exact legal definitions in use are. Never assume that you know what a word/term means based on what you believe to be “common usage”. Find the “definitions” section of the law you are concerned with and read it first.

When reading Article 35 of the New York State Penal law (read previous post), the terms “physical force” and “deadly physical force” are used throughout. In New York, Deadly Physical Force is defined as:

Deadly physical force” means physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used, is readily capable of causing death or other serious physical injury.

Within that definition is another defined term:

Serious physical injury” means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

while “Physical Injury” is a less serious injury defined as impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

I defined “Deadly Physical Force” first because New York’s Penal Law does not expressly define non-deadly “physical force”, “physical force” is simply “any degree of physical force other than deadly physical force.”

Of interest in the definition of DPF is the part that states…physical force which, under the circumstances in which it is used. Stabbing, shooting, etc are obvious applications of force that can cause death or serious physical injury, but even lesser means of force like a punch can become deadly physical force depending on the circumstances in which it’s used. A guy taking a drunken swing at you over a spilled beer? Probably not the time to shoot someone. A street mugging with a guy saying he’s going to kill you as he mounts you and starts punching you into unconsciousness? Different story.

These definitions will come into play as we look at Article 35 in more detail.

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