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The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.



force n

1 : a cause of motion, activity, or change

intervening force
: a force that acts after another's negligent act or omission has occurred and that causes injury to another
: intervening cause at cause

irresistible force
: an unforeseeable event esp. that prevents performance of an obligation under a contract
: force majeure
2 : a body of persons available for a particular end [the labor ]
: police force usually used with the
3 : violence, compulsion, or constraint exerted upon or against a person or thing

constructive force
: the use of threats or intimidation for the purpose of gaining control over or preventing resistance from another

dead·ly force
: force that is intended to cause or that carries a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury compare nondeadly force in this entry NOTE: As a general rule, deadly force may be used without incurring criminal or tort liability when one reasonably believes that one's life or safety is in danger. In some cases, a person's unreasonable belief in the need for deadly force has been used to justify reducing a charge of murder to voluntary manslaughter. Additionally, a police officer is generally justified in using deadly force to prevent the escape of a suspect who threatens the officer or who the officer has probable cause to believe has committed a violent crime.

lawful force
: force that is considered justified under the law and does not create criminal or tort liability compare unlawful force in this entry

mod·er·ate force
[mÄ -də-rət-]
: nondeadly force in this entry

non·dead·ly force
: force that is intended to cause minor bodily injury
: a threat (as by the brandishing of a gun) to use deadly force called also moderate force compare deadly force in this entry

reasonable force
: Lawful force that is reasonably necessary to accomplish a particular end (as preventing theft of one's property)

unlawful force
: force that is not justified under the law and therefore is considered a tort or crime or both compare lawful force in this entry

in force
: valid and operative [a life insurance policy in force]

vt forced
1 a : to compel by physical means often against resistance [forced him into the car]
b : to break open or through [forced the door] see also forcible entry
2 : to impose or require by law see also elective share forced heir at heir forced sale at sale

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

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