What If I Bring a Taser to a Gun Fight?

February 01, 2016

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

This month, Taser International, the company known for providing law enforcement officers with tasers to use while on duty, has released its smallest taser for the civilian personal protection market. http://www.engadget.com/2016/01/19/taser-pulse/ (last visited January 24, 2016). The taser, known as the “Pulse,” looks very much like a sub-compact handgun.

The design and similarities to a firearm could have significant and interesting legal implications. Indiana’s statutes provide for self-defense as an affirmative defense, stating that a person “is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, against any other person; and[] does not have a duty to retreat.” (emphasis). Ind. Code § 35-41-3-2. However, the force used “must be proportionate to the urgency of the situation,” and the right to self-defense is extinguished where greater force than is proportionate is used. Hollowell v. State, 707 N.E.2d 1015, 1021 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999) (holding that “being struck in the mouth” was not so life threatening as to justify “self-defense with a knife”).

Bearing that in mind, one can see the questions associated with the use of a taser that looks like a firearm. If a person reasonably believes that the taser was a firearm, are they justified in responding with deadly force by shooting a firearm? What if a person identifies the weapon as a taser, not as a firearm? What are the implications if I actually use my taser? Do I have a turn it over to law enforcement as evidence? Do I have to tell a law enforcement officer that I have a taser?

Even Chicago Mayor Rom Emanuel recently announced that every Chicago police officer will carry a taser by June 1. http://www.thestreet.com/story/13409426/1/taser-tasr-stock-rises-on-potential-chicago-police-order.html (last visited January 24, 2016). There can be little doubt that civilian interest and use will follow. As non-lethal weapons continue to develop and become more embedded into our society, these are questions that will arise and will have to be addressed by our criminal and civil court systems. Simply stated, the taser is not going away.

Contact us today if you have questions or believe your constitutional, criminal, or firearms rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.