Fleeing Felon Rule

Definition - What does Fleeing Felon Rule mean?

This is a rule established by common law, which allows the use of deadly force in certain circumstances. Specifically, it enables someone (such as a law enforcement officer) to employ lethal force against another person who is running away after committing a felony offense.

The fleeing felon rule also refers to the Social Security Administration's (SSA) ability to withhold benefits if someone has an outstanding warrant for fleeing to avoid prosecution for a felony offense, or if someone has an outstanding warrant for fleeing incarceration on a felony charge.

Justipedia explains Fleeing Felon Rule

The fleeing felon rule established by common law and the SSA's fleeing felon rule have both been subjected to legal challenges over the years.

The 1985 Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Garner specifically addressed the fleeing felon rule. In that case, the rule served as the basis for a state law that permitted police to shoot at fleeing felons. Although the court disagreed with the interpretation and use of the common law rule, it did not compel Tennessee to change its statute, nor did it force any state to relinquish use of the fleeing felon rule.

Two federal class action lawsuits challenged the provisions in the SSA's fleeing felon rule. In a 2009 settlement in Martinez v. Astrue, Case No. 08-CV-4735 CW (N.D. Cal. 2009), the SSA agreed that it would only restrict benefits in cases where felony warrants had been issued for flight. The following year, the court presiding in Clark v. Astrue, 603 F.3d 140(2d Cir. 2010) held that benefits could not be withheld solely on the basis of a probation or parole warrant.

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