Today, we are going to address when we can use force and when we can use deadly force. In Virginia, so long as we are not the initial aggressor (meaning we don’t have a hand in starting the altercation), we can use force to repel the unlawful application of force against ourselves. This is a use of force that is some lesser amount of force than when we are talking about using deadly force.

Deadly Force

When we consider whether force is deadly force, we ask whether it is force that endangers human life or does great bodily harm. If it does, then we need to be legally justified in using not just force, but in using deadly force. In Virginia, so long as we are not the initial aggressor, we may use deadly force when we reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury, and we use no more force than would otherwise be necessary to protect ourselves. This means that if we are attacked, and if we fear that we are about to be seriously injured or killed, then we can use deadly force to defend ourselves.

Two additional notes on this subject: first, these use of force rules apply only in situations where we were not the initial aggressor, or in other words, where we did not start the fight. There is an old saying that “an armed society is a polite society.” In Virginia, it has to be true for your own protection. Second, U.S. LawShield regularly provides two-hour seminars on the use of force and deadly force, and it is highly recommended that you attend a seminar to learn about these laws in depth, or if you have been before, in order to receive a refresher.

If you have any questions about the legal application of the justified use of deadly force and similar phrases, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with an Independent Program Attorney.