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Is the California Act to Save Lives Saving Lives?

No Reasonable Belief, No Deadly Force.

We are living in a time where law enforcement's use of deadly force has been a widely controversial subject. Following the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many other innocent people, the topic of excessive police force is constantly making national headlines. Thousands are calling for stricter laws concerning police brutality and racial injustice, but many aren’t aware that an existing California bill addresses law enforcement’s use of deadly force.

On January 1, 2020, Assembly Bill 392, or the “California Act to Save Lives” went into effect. At the time, government officials did not realize that AB 392 would be extremely relevant to America’s current events. However, they were aware that California police kill people at a 37% higher rate than the national per capita average, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. But no one at the time could predict what 2020 would have in store. Many people claim we are suffering two viruses: COVID-19 and systemic racism.

Thus, let’s examine the meanings and impacts of AB 392.

AB 392 Facts & Impacts

The goal of AB 392 is to redefine the meaning of justifiable lethal force. The bill permits lethal force, “ … when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that deadly force is necessary …”

The bill further states that a police officer is allowed to use deadly force only when they reasonably believe it is required for the following reasons:

  • To defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.
  • To apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.

In other words, if an officer fears for their or other people’s lives as a result of someone’s actions and behavior, deadly force is allowed. The mission of this bill is to mitigate circumstances by avoiding the use of deadly force and using “ … other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.” Some may wonder what constitutes an “objectively reasonable” officer, but the bill does not address what standards such officers must follow in order to hold this title.

Progress is being made, but we have a long way to go. Our attorneys at Appel & Morse know how law enforcement can impact civilians, as it is our job to defend those who are on their “bad side.” As former prosecutors, we deeply know how the other side of the law works against defendants and use that experience to fight for their freedom. If you are facing trouble with the law, we have your back.

Use our online contact form or call (805) 467-6060 to arrange a consultation with us.