Federal Law Civil Rights Excessive Use of Force Law and Legal Definition

Each state has its own standards in defining the amount of force an officer may employ in an arrest situation. Generally, an officer may use a reasonable amount of force necessary to make an arrest. Broadly stated, a reasonable amount of force is considered to be the minimum needed for self-defense and only to effect a lawful arrest. The decision to use or escalate force is contingent upon several important factors. Some of these include the following.

  1. The type of arrest being made.
  2. The degree of resistance being offered.
  3. What weapons are involved, if any.
  4. The size of the person being arrested.
  5. The size of the officer making the arrest.
  6. The number of persons involved in the incident.
  7. The availability of back-up officers.
  8. The feasibility of alternative actions by the arresting officer.

Such laws authorize peace officers to use whatever reasonable force may be necessary, including deadly force, in order to protect themselves or another from threats of violence. However, an officer using force in an excessive, unnecessary or malicious manner can be held liable for his or her actions.