Marc MacYoung
Expert Witness,  Author,  Instructor






It doesn't matter what threat assessment
model you use. What matters is you have one.
                       "What You Don't Know..."


 Threat Assessment Models

  First, what is a threat assessment model? 

  Putting it in a legal context: it is an organized system of known patterns to analyze objective threats and assess degrees of danger. These models are taught so a person can take effective countermeasures in time. Later they allow the individual to explain how and why– using this pre-existing knowledge– he reasonably believed he was in danger when he acted.

   Putting it in layman's terms, a threat assessment model lets you recognize developing danger, prepare yourself to do something about it and later, explain what you saw and why you did what you did.

   The major models are: A.O.I. (Ability Opportunity Intent) J.A.M. (Jeopardy. Ability. Means) A.O.J. (Ability, Opportunity. Jeopardy) I.M.O.P. (Intent, Means, Opportunity Preclusion), Five Stages of Violent Crime (Intent, Interview, Position, Attack, Reaction). These models have their roots in justifying police shootings (A.O.I. is the original) There are others, but these are the most  court tested and have experts available to testify.

   Second, did your client know one when he or she acted?

   If yes, your job of defending him, just got a lot easier. If no, you're going to have to work harder.  Either way, it helps if you learn even just one model. While danger can both objectively exist and be recognized without such a model, it's harder to explain how your client knew he was under immediate threat. In the same vein, you knowing a model will assist you in asking  questions to better defend your client. This whether your client knows such a model or not.

   Third, did your client introduce– or even reference– this prior knowledge in his statement?

   Simply using a term from a model in a statement is important– especially if the case involves higher levels of force.  Once certain words are in the record, the bigger idea can be more fully explored and explained later. (If you are present during questioning advise your client along these lines.)

   Here is something to consider: Was the opportunity to articulate this even allowed during questioning?

   Remember I mentioned threat assessment models were originally developed for law enforcement?  (Basically, by reversing the same standards prosecutors use to get a conviction, it allowed officers to defend themselves in court over use of force incidents.) If the interview has changed from investigation to building a case against your client it is not uncommon to steer questions away from exculpatory statements.
Something else that is not uncommon is for such statements to fail to make it into officers written reports.

   As these tactics make it hard to introduce prior knowledge of these models later, dash, body cam and interview room video must be watched with this in mind. Then you can point out when the questioning was steered away from topics that would support your client's claim of self-defense.







   Expert Witness CV


What You Don't Know
Can Kill You

(How your SD training will put you into prison or the ground)

In the Name of Self-Defense
Marc MacYoung
(Violence, crime & aftermath)


Marc MacYoung
(Threat assessment)