Sunday, November 8, 2009

Detroit CPL Class: Transfer Of Intent

Students in a bona fide Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CCW/CPL) Class are taught various aspects of Michigan law, including but not limited to the following: Self-Defense, Lethal Force, Defense of Third Persons, and Pistol-Free Zones. Without question, most students feel that the legal concept of "Transfer of Intent" is perhaps the most unfair legal concept under our system of justice.

Transfer Of Intent Explained
Transfer of Intent means that the "intent" of firing a handgun travels along with the discharged bullet until it hits an eventual target. If the eventual target was justified in being fired upon, there is no issue with respect to unjustified usage of lethal force.

Michigan law authorizes lethal force for self-defense and for the defense of other third persons when the shooter is somewhere he has a legal right to be, is not in the act of committing a crime, and has both a reasonable and honest belief that he (or the third person) is in imminent jeopardy of severe bodily harm or sexual assault.

Problems arise when the eventual (i.e. struck) target was not justified. Transfer of Intent issues arise under two circumstances: missed shot of intended target or over-penetration of intended target.

A victim of an assault is authorized to defend himself. However, if the victim uses a handgun to mount a defense against a predator and consequently misses and hits an unintended target, the "intent" to fire travels along with the bullet to the resulting target. Thus, it is possible that the victim is now guilty of the crime of shooting someone who was not a threat to him. Manslaughter or Second Degree Murder charges could be the eventual result of the shooting.

Obviously, the solution to this issue is to not miss the intended target - the bad guy. Persons who carry a firearm for self-defense must be adequately trained to reliably hit their intended target. Accordingly, defenders should be intimately familiar with their firearms and should adopt a regular training regimen at their local range. Shooting a handgun is a depreciable skill that necessitates shooting - at a minimum - a box of fifty cartridges per month.

Alternatively, Transfer of Intent can also come into play if a victim successfully fires upon and strikes an attacking predator with a bullet that "over-penetrates" or passes through the body of the attacking bad guy. If the over-penetrated bullet strikes another person, the original defender faces consequences from the legal system.

The risk of over-penetrated bullets can be minimized by handgun caliber selection and ammunition selection. Larger caliber bullets, such as .45s, are heavier and slower than their 9mm counterparts which are prone to over-penetration of first struck targets. Defenders are urged to shoot the highest caliber handgun that they can reliably fire accurately.

Additionally, defenders are encouraged to use Jacketed Hollow Points (JHPs) in their concealed carry firearms. JHPs are designed to stop in the first target that they encounter, for they expand upon impact and latch into the soft body tissue of bad guys.

Many CCW Class students think that the concept of Transfer of Intent is unfair due to the fact that a very real threat existed which authorized a defender to use lethal force. In the minds of many students, it seems unfair that an attacked victim could have murder charges levied against him despite the fact that he did not "intend" or mean to hit an "unintended" target.

When it is explained that family members of "unintended targets" would probably seek out justice from the legal system to help them cope with the loss of their loved ones, it is apparent that a penalty of some sort must be dealt to the shooter.

Bottom Line:
If you are going to carry a firearm for personal protection, you have the duty of only shooting legally justified targets - bad guys. If your discharged bullets miss or over-penetrate and strike persons who posed no imminent threat to you, consequences from the legal system may be forthcoming. Thus, defenders should become intimately familiar with their handguns, practice regularly at the range, select the highest caliber gun they can accurately shoot, and only use JHPs for personal protection.
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