A Police Officer Must Exercise Proportionality When Using Force


On September 13, 2011 Deputy Bryan Angelle shot and killed 17-year old Jose Luis Polanco. Deputy Angelle was called to Polanco’s residence by a concerned neighbor when the witness saw Polanco and his mother get into a physical altercation in front of their house. When the Deputy arrived Polanco was holding a knife. According to the story Polanco then made a movement toward Angelle, who feared for his life and opened fire at least twice. The shots were fatal. It is department policy that any officer involved in a shooting be suspended pending an investigation to determine whether the deadly force was justified.

When an officer, or any person, feels that their life is threatened with deadly force they may use deadly force as to prevent harm to themselves. There is no duty to retreat in Texas. When an officer orders a suspect to lower a weapon and the suspect instead approaches the officer in an aggressive manner, the officer is authorized by the Penal code to use deadly force. In the linked story, the Deputy felt as though the suspect was going to attack him with a knife. Based on the few facts presented in the article the Deputy seems justified in using deadly force.

Law enforcement is restricted on how much force they can use when conducting an arrest. Law enforcement must only use reasonable force in order to conduct an arrest or a search of a suspect. If an officer uses excessive force in conducting an arrest then the suspect will be justified in resisting the officer. Force is considered excessive when it is greater than necessary to make an arrest or search. However, if a suspect responds to the force, then the officer will likely seek charges against the suspect for resisting arrest, or assault on a police officer. The law clearly states that a defendant is entitled to a self-defense jury instruction in these cases. It is reversible error for a trial court not to give a jury a self-defense instruction if evidence is presented that the officer, in conducting an arrest, used excessive force against the defendant.

Regular people are just as entitled to use force in self-defense as law enforcement officers are. Defendants are therefore entitled to defend themselves with force when law enforcement uses unreasonable force to arrest them. However, defendants must put on some evidence of the officers’ misconduct in order to get this defense presented to a jury.

At the Law Offices of The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp we analyze our assault cases for the possible defenses of self-defense. If you have been charged with Assault, Assault on a police officer, or resisting arrest then you need competent and experienced counselors to help you understand the law and possible defenses. Call today for a free consultation.