Law Office of Paul W. Hamilton

When can a Georgia Law Enforcement Officer use Deadly Force?


Picture1The recent case of an officer’s use of deadly force in Louisiana that resulted in the the death of an African-American man has rekindled the ongoing debate on law enforcement use of force. Georgia law enforcement officers are required to re-qualify with their weapon and receive use of force training every year.

Official Code of Georgia, Section 17-4-20(b) states, “Sheriffs and peace officers who are appointed or employed in conformity with Chapter 8 of Title 35 may use deadly force to apprehend a suspected felon only when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury; when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others; or when there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm. Nothing in this Code section shall be construed so as to restrict such sheriffs or peace officers from the use of such reasonable nondeadly force as may be necessary to apprehend and arrest a suspected felon or misdemeanant.”

As a private citizen, I give great deference to law enforcement on the ground who are making split second decisions in their encounters with the public. On the other hand, it’s obvious that mistakes are sometimes made by law enforcement who escalate the situation and react too quickly to the events unfolding before them.

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