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Attempted Carjacking and the Use of Lethal Force

February 12, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Crime Avoidance, Legal Issues, Use of Force Issues No Comments

Question:  My uncle who lives in Glendale, Arizona was recently a victim of what appeared to be an attempted car jacking.  As he was stopped at a traffic light, a man came up to his driver’s side door, attempted to open it but was unsuccessful because it was locked.  The man then commenced to verbally assault my uncle and ordered him to get out of the car.  My uncle did not comply so the man then physically assaulted the vehicle by repeatedly kicking in the driver’s side door and hitting the window with his fist.  The altercation lasted approximately two minutes then the light changed, the man ran away and my uncle drove to a safe distance and called 911.  My uncle, who is a “reasonable person”, was really traumatized by this event and believed that his life was in danger due to the level of rage that the man was exhibiting.  My question is:  At what point would the “threat” of deadly force and possibly the “use” of deadly force have been justified?

Answer: In order for your uncle to use ‘lethal force’ he must be in fear of ‘serious injury, disabling injury or death’ by the acts of the person threatening him.  Since the man did not display a weapon and your uncle was locked inside the car, your uncle did the correct thing by not threatening or using lethal force.  For the most part, threat of lethal force only be used in the same circumstances as the actual use of lethal force.  There are some limited exceptions, but they don’t apply here, so I won’t go into them.

Had the attacker displayed a weapon or opened the car door and physically tried to attack or remove your uncle from the vehicle, then it would have been a different story.  With the display of a lethal weapon, the attacker would have demonstrated lethal intent and would have provided justification for a lethal response.  Similarly, had he gotten the vehicle open and tried to remove your uncle by force, the Castle Doctrine would have kicked in, allowing your uncle to protect himself from what would have mostly likely been a ‘carjacking’.

Based on  the circumstances you described, your uncle did everything correctly…I know it was frightening, but he did well.

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