In Tennessee v. Garner, the United States Supreme Court rejected the common law rule which had permitted the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of an unarmed suspected felon. The Court held that deadly force cannot be used to prevent an escape unless the arresting officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. The United States Supreme Court noted that "apparently" Virginia was one of the few jurisdictions still following the common law rule. However, the only Virginia authority cited, Berry v. Hamman, involved an armed and dangerous felon. Because the decision in Berry is not inconsistent with the rule announced in Tennessee v. Garner, the United States Supreme Court may have clarified the constitutional principle applicable in Virginia, but the decision does not appear to constitute a major change in Virginia law.
Ronald J. Bacigal,
Annual Survey of Virginia Law: Criminal Procedure,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol19/iss4/4