Choke Hold Self-Defense: Legal Use of Force, or Excessive Force?

Drawing of a choke hold from U.S. Marine Corp training manual.
 
According to KKTV in Colorado Springs, a man who defended himself with a choke hold won’t be charged with a crime. From the station:
 
On Jan. 22, Army veteran Craig Uehling, 30, encountered 25-year-old Scott Smith in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. Uehling says he found Smith in his driveway and was concerned he was trying to burglarize his neighborhood. Uehling put Smith in a choke hold to subdue him. In doing so, Smith lost consciousness and eventually stopped breathing. Smith was revived by paramedics and hospital personnel, but suffered serious bodily injury.
 
Was this a legal use of force?
 
“If one person attacks another person, the person being attacked has every right to use a reasonable amount of force to defend himself,” said U.S. Law Shield of Colorado Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards.
 
Richards said, “In Colorado, a person may defend himself from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force. And the legal citizen is not required to retreat before using deadly force in their own defense.”
 
Also, it’s worth noting, Richards said, “A private citizen may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another person if he reasonably believes it necessary to stop a person who has committed a crime in his presence.”
 
According to the KKTV report, it was later determined that Smith had property from three different vehicles
in the cul-de-sac on him when Uehling choked him out, including property from Uehling’s vehicle.
 
According to a district attorney’s office release, Uehling will not be charged because, “In order to charge someone with a crime under these circumstances, the People must be able to disprove affirmative defenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the fact that Mr. Smith was the first to use physical force, the People do not believe they can meet this burden, and therefore, will not be charging Mr. Uehling with a crime arising from these events.”

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