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Imminence Occurs When, During Deadly Force
The Tueller Drill and AOJ Triad Examined
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense article is to educate gun owners about gun law and self-defense law. Ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is gun owner’s responsibility to learn and abide by the law, and practice safe gun handling accordingly. I am not a lawyer, but have been and currently still am engaged in, the study of Use-of-Force Florida Law and Florida Gun Law. The following content is from that education.
Memorize the Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling. Mistakes will not occur by doing so. One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
In addition, when you pull the trigger, think of all bullets as having a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer attached to them. Therefore, use your gun safely and lawfully. If you are unsure of any situations regarding gun usage or handling or what is lawful or unlawful, please refrain from public conceal carrying of your firearm until you have proper training. Contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction to give you the confidence to safely and legally operate your firearm.
Today’s firearms focus will be on what I believe is the most important element of the five elements of Self-Defense Law, which are, Avoidance, Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, and Reasonableness, and that element is the third element in my ordering sequence, Imminence.
When a person has done everything possible to break contact from a perceived deadly threat, and is completely innocent of starting the deadly conflict, the most critical determination a person must accomplish is, “when do I go to my gun”. At what point in the event does the act of violence begin, which legally allows me to bring a gun to bear on the situation?
If you get this one element wrong, it will not matter in a court of law that you attempted to avoid, and were not the initial aggressor and used proportional force, and did the other four elements reasonably, as any lawful reasonable person would have done. The fact that a jury believes you got the element of imminence wrong, seals your fate.
So let us break down the element of Imminence and understand the factors, which define that exact moment when deadly force should occur; The Moment of Right Now. Two self-defense concepts, which serve to measure this specific time-element of imminence, are the Tueller Drill and the AOJ Triad.
In 1983, Dennis Tueller of the Salt Lake City Utah Police Department devised a practice drill, which served to illustrate the time and speed by which an attacker could advance on an officer and successfully accomplish physical contact. The results revealed that an officer could draw from a holster and bring his gun to bear, putting rounds on target before an attacker made contact, was on average twenty-one feet and within one and a half seconds.
It was this research, which became the legal definition rule by which to determine what a legal imminent deadly threat actually looked like in reality. However, this conclusion was an average of several test participants used by Dennis Tueller. Some attacks took more time than one and a half seconds, and some took far less time than the average.
In many court cases, this drill has been used to assist in the determination of Imminence. However, it must be reasoned by taking into account the individual particulars of the physical ability, opportunity and therefore the jeopardy levels of the attacker and the victim. Obviously not everyone can draw a holstered pistol as fast as some officers draw and bring it to bear affectively to stop the threat. And all twenty-one-foot advances happen in one and a half seconds.
So, with that in mind let us consider what is known in the law enforcement community today as the AOJ Triad, Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy. When determining ‘the point at which deadly force was used’ during the examination of the evidence of the case, these three factors will be scrutinized to determination lawfulness or unlawfulness.
First, does the threat have the “Ability” to attack you? This factor can vary greatly depending on you and your threat’s comparable body size, condition, age, and overall presence. A high level of Ability would be an in shape athletic person, and a low level of ability would be a handicapped person with a bad leg or a person who is extremely overweight and appears slow.
Judging yourself in comparison with your threat, must be accurate, there is no room for error. It is an art to be an accurate judge of people as it relates to your ability, within a few seconds. And it will be analyzed within the Tueller Drill of twenty-one feet in one and a half seconds, again used as an average, which will be refined in accordance with the characteristics of the attacker and the defender.
The second factor to consider once you have Ability judged reasonably is, does the threat have the “Opportunity” to act or carry out a threat against you in your present condition; physically, mentally and situationally? Are you in a trapped state, unable to move much or do you have room to maneuver or even to break contact and avoid. Or are you at a serious disadvantage because of an illness or injury. Perhaps you are an asthmatic and your body is reacting to the fear of the threat. Determining the level of Opportunity requires an accurate analysis of Ability. The legal system will evaluate both elements.
The third factor is the natural step that occurs when Ability and Opportunity have been determined realistically, culminating to reveal the level of “Jeopardy” you were facing. Jeopardy again, depends on your skills and condition. It is not the same for everyone. Did you have experience with the type of threat you were facing? How much of the evidence establishes what is unknown and or known about you and the attacker. Is your self-evaluation true? Do you know how capable you are as when facing a threat? Did the threat seem calm, nervous, scared, or enraged to the point of insanity? If you have not been tested on all these factors of a deadly self-defense event, how can you be sure of your state of AOJ? You will have to answer with these questions and provide proof to justify your use of deadly force.
Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy are three factors, which exist within a space that is determined by the Tueller Drill guide, and will be used to judge your case. And it is commonly accepted as a guide or framework within most courts of law. Therefore, anything greater than a distance of twenty-one feet, the level of AOJ diminishes and conversely anything less than that distance, the level of AOJ increases. The higher level of AOJ, the higher your chances of being found accurate in your judgement of Imminence.
With the AOJ process in mind, let us go back to the Tueller Drill. In many court arguments, the physical condition of the threat changed the distance of the twenty-one foot engagement standard, based on the Ability factor of AOJ. To illustrate, a five foot six inch man weighing three hundred pounds would take five seconds to move twenty-one feet and a six foot six inch man who weighs two hundred pounds and is in excellent condition would take one second or less to move twenty-one feet. Therefore, the faster more able-bodied person advancing with a knife could be reasonably shot at thirty feet away, while the smaller out of shape slower attacker with a knife could reasonably be shot from eighteen feet away.
All of these physical factors come into play when the element of Imminence is judged by a prosecutor, judge and jury. Evidence will need to be presented to prove to a jury that you did act reasonably in determining Imminence.
If you’re me, which is a middle sixties, in shape, physically capable, quick, man, with decades of close-quarter battle self-defense experience with firearms and grappling, I know I can wait longer before I react than an out of shape man my age. I can draw a pistol and put several rounds where I want them in under one and a half seconds. And I can accomplish this while moving in any direction. I have practiced falling down while putting rounds on target. I can shoot from the hip and put rounds on the areas of the attacker’s body to stop his mobility inside of twelve feet. I have over twelve years practicing this type of training. This will come out in court and I will be judged accordingly.
Do you know your own capability with your conceal carry pistol? What is your level of safe gun handling ability, in practice as compared to under extreme duress? What are your weaknesses and has anyone tested you to verify exactly your state of AOJ. What types of Jeopardy are you proficient in?
Knowing how you stack up legally when the Tueller Drill and the AOJ Triad of legal scrutiny is applied to your case of deadly self-defense force, will be the most serious event of your life. Next week I will cover the price you will pay to remain free…if you endure the legal scrutiny and prevail.
I leave you with this thought, if you fail to prove your case in a pre-trial Self-Defense Immunity Hearing before a judge, and must endure a criminal trial, know this; no one survives the legal meat grinder. Even those found not guilty in a court of law pay a heavy price.
Article Information Sources: The Tueller Drill and AOJ disciplines learned from Massad Ayoob, and the Five Laws of Self-Defense are from Andrew Branca. Both resources I incorporated within Rory Miller’s Chiron System of Training.
Today’s article is published online at the Florida Guns & Self-Defense business website, FloridaGunSelfDefense.com
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers firearms and self-defense training and education. Single or group classes or customized training is available. Visit FloridaGunSelfDefense.com for more information. Or call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474
Dave has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2013. He is skilled in advanced tactical gun and self-defense gun operation, in accordance with Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is not a lawyer, but has studied Use-of-Force Law and Gun Law for over ten years. He is an adamant supporter of an original historical literal interpretation of the Second Amendment. You can contact him at email@example.com