Flight and Force

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Sometimes a police officer can only stop a fleeing suspect by striking or shooting him. When is it morally justified to use such force rather than let the suspect go? Beginning with deadly force, this article disentangles key considerations. First, it distinguishes justifications for force that are premised on a liability or forfeiture from justifications premised upon lesser-evils considerations. Second, it unpacks the distinct interests the state might claim in subduing suspects, from adjudicating suspects, to punishing criminals, to preventing crime. Drawing these distinctions shows that the state’s interests are weaker than they first appear, rarely sufficient to outweigh the individual’s strong interests against force, and many suspects are not liable to the force to which they are subjected. Ultimately, we conclude (perhaps unsurprisingly) many legally permissible uses of force are morally unjustified. Finally, we turn to ways our analysis can be extrapolated to nondeadly force.


Policing, flight, deadly force, Tennessee v. Garner

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Criminal Law & Philosophy