Changing Technology Challenges the Law

Under Pennsylvania law, if these “stun gun bandits” robbed a Starbucks with a gun, you’d be legally justified in shooting them. But they are robbing with a stun gun, which is not deadly force. In many states, you can use deadly force to stop a forcible felony, and robbery counts. Pennsylvania is not one of those states, however.

Could you claim self-defense for the use of deadly force if you had a pacemaker or bad heart, and were threatened with a taser? More importantly, if you’re carrying a firearm, and are threatened with a taser, can you claim self-defense because they could use the taser to disarm you?

If it were me, I’d probably spray them. But I’m not sure that’s the smart move. I tend to think the use of deadly force to stop a forcible felony is the correct standard. That standard does have its roots in common law. If you’re committing a robbery, you’re taking your life into your hands. No matter what the instrument. That seems, to me, to be the right balance.

10 thoughts on “Changing Technology Challenges the Law”

  1. You may be justified legally in criminal court, but I’m sure “Johnny-Angel’s” mother and family would have a hay-day dragging you through civil court. They’d likely win.
    So will criminals begin robbing places with stun-guns, pepper spray and paintball guns to avoid having lethal force deployed against them?

  2. Here’s a quote from the linked article above about this Starbucks-stun-gun-robbery:

    “Stun guns, which are illegal in Pennsylvania, deliver a high-voltage current between two metal posts when the trigger is pulled. Some are small enough to be carried in pants pockets.”

    Once again, some Inquirer reporter, this time Bonnie L. Cook, gets it wrong regarding the law in Pennsylvania.

    Stun guns are only illegal in the city of Philadelphia. There are quite legal everywhere else in PA as far as I know. I always see them being openly sold at all of the gun shows I regularly attend in PA, and the last time I bought one online, the only part of PA that the seller would not ship to was Philadelphia.

  3. I can’t speak to PA, but I’ve got the KY CCDW handbook right here with the relevant KY laws.

    As stated in the quiz portion, “Is the use pf physical force by a defendant upon another person justifiable when the defendant *believes* that such force is *necessary*?” the answer is “Yes”

    The other terminology used here in KY is “deadly physical force” and “physical force”. KRS 503.050 (2) says, “The use of deadly physical force … is justifiable … only when the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, [rape], felony involving the use of force, or under …. KRS 503.055.

    In short, in KY, shooting someone committing a robbery with a taser is justifiable.

    What does PA law say about the use of deadly force against regular force?

    @snoopycomputer – If criminals were smart and trying to avoid being shot, they wouldn’t be robbing stores. They’d go into politics! ZING! Seriously though, anytime you hear “will criminals get smarter” the answer is NO, they don’t care, expecting them to understand the nuances of the laws AND case law is expecting too much.

  4. 50% chance it was retaliation for Starbucks not bothering customers about carrying guns.

  5. When I was trained as a concealed handgun license instructor 15 years ago, the Texas Dept. of Public Safety lethal force expert said that stun guns, pepper spray and other devices would be construed as attempting to use DEADLY FORCE. This is because any of them can incapacitate you and once down, you can be choked, stabbed, beaten, etc. The first case of a CHL using deadly force in self defense was where a guy was being beaten and the perp was “just” using his fists. Of course the guy was a 350 lb, 20 year old Samoan. The shooter was found not guilty. And now Texas law protects you against civil lawsuits if you cap someone justifiably. Of course our law allowing deadly force to protect property goes back to the founding of the nation. Er, the nation of TEXAS. 1836.

  6. “stun guns, pepper spray and other devices would be construed as attempting to use DEADLY FORCE. This is because any of them can incapacitate you and once down, you can be choked, stabbed, beaten, etc.”

    I don’t know if this has been addressed by the courts in Virginia or not, but this is my reasoning as well. If someone is attacking me (as opposed to defending themselves) with a weapon intended to incapacitate me, what are they going to do to me once I can’t defend myself?

    I have been told by a local police officer that they are specifically authorized and trained to respond to pepper spray with lethal force, both for that reason, and because it is assumed that the attacker will try to take their gun.

  7. +1 to those above, I can’t add to their justification, so I will add a story.

    In Massachusetts, electronic stun devices are illegal for civilians because a Mass State Trooper was using his as a device to facilitate rape.

    Now I won’t bother with talking about how stupid that law is, but if you believe rape is a deadly force scenario, then offensive use of a stun device or chemical spray should also count as deadly force.

    Double-so for multiple attackers acting malliciously. Hell multiple attackers is deadly force in my book even unarmed.

  8. Considering how many people Tazers have killed over the years, I personally consider the use of or the attempt to use a Tazer on myself as justifing the use of deadly force.

  9. I am increasingly of the opinion that there is *no* level of unlawful use of force that does not carry the risk of death or greivious bodily harm; thus permitting response by use of same.

    That’s moot, however, since I also don’t subscribe to the “proportionate force” school of thought.My options for defense are limited to what I have on hand. At most, I will have 4 -5 defensive options handy, many of which are of dubious effectiveness or easily countered.And I am a relalatively healthy and athletic male with a small level of training in physical conflict.But I can’t see allowing only the weaker members of society effective self-defense either..

  10. Just try to pull a Tazer or stun gun on a police officer…He will shoot you with a real gun every time.

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