Define: A Force Et Armes

A Force Et Armes
A Force Et Armes
Quick Summary of A Force Et Armes

A force et armes, also spelt a force et armis, is a term in French law that signifies “with force and arms.” It describes actions involving physical violence or disturbance of the peace. Vi et armis, a Latin term meaning “by or with force and arms,” is commonly employed in historical contexts to describe violent actions committed in the past. For instance, if someone forcibly enters a house and steals something, they have committed a crime a force et armes because they used physical force to gain entry and take the item. Similarly, if a group of individuals initiate a fight in a public place, they act vi et armis as they use physical force to harm others. It is important to note that, while these terms are not as frequently used in modern legal language, they remain significant in historical and legal contexts.

What is the dictionary definition of A Force Et Armes?
Dictionary Definition of A Force Et Armes

A FORCE ET ARMES, a legal term meaning “with force and arms,” is used to characterise offences involving violence or disruption of the peace. This term was frequently employed during mediaeval times and remained a formal pleading requirement in England until 1852. However, it was not obligatory for offences related to cheating, non-feazance, or consequential injury.

Full Definition Of A Force Et Armes

“A force et armes” is a French legal term which translates to “by force and arms” in English. It is a phrase that is historically featured in legal indictments, particularly within the context of common law systems. This term is used to describe acts committed with violence or the threat of violence. This legal overview will delve into the historical background, evolution, and current relevance of “a force et armes” in contemporary legal systems, particularly in British law.

Historical Background

The phrase “a force et armes” finds its roots in medieval legal systems. During this period, the term was commonly used in indictments to specify that a criminal act was carried out using force and weapons. This phrase categorised crimes as more severe due to the element of violence involved. The distinction was crucial when the use of force in the commission of crimes had significant implications for both the severity of the crime and the subsequent punishment.

In medieval England, the common law system incorporated many such phrases borrowed from Latin and Old French, the languages of the law at the time. “A force et armes” was one such term, and it articulated the violent nature of offences like burglary, robbery, and assault. It indicated that the accused had not only committed a crime but had done so in a particularly egregious manner, thus meriting a harsher penalty.

Evolution of the Term

Over the centuries, “a force et armes” has evolved. In its original context, the term was essential in distinguishing between different degrees of criminal behaviour. For instance, an act committed “a force et armes” would be viewed more gravely than one without the use of force. This categorisation helped determine appropriate sentences and the administration of justice.

As legal systems modernised, the explicit use of “a force et armes” in indictments and legal proceedings diminished. However, the underlying concept has persisted. Modern legal systems still differentiate crimes involving violence from those that do not, even if the specific phrasing has changed. The principles encapsulated by “a force et armes” continue to influence how violent crimes are prosecuted and punished.

Current Relevance in British Law

In contemporary British law, while the phrase “a force et armes” is no longer commonly used, the concept it represents remains significant. The legal system differentiates between crimes of violence and non-violent crimes, with the former generally receiving more severe penalties.

Criminal Offences Involving Violence

Under British law, offences involving violence are classified into various categories, including but not limited to:

  1. Assault and Battery: These offences involve applying or threatening unlawful force. Assault can occur even without physical contact, while battery involves actual physical contact.
  2. Robbery: Defined as theft with the use or threat of force. The element of force distinguishes robbery from simple theft.
  3. Burglary: When an individual enters a building as a trespasser with intent to commit a crime, and in some cases, the crime involves violence or the threat of violence.
  4. Homicide: Including murder and manslaughter, these are the most severe violent crimes. The use of force is a central element in these offences.
  5. Public Order Offences: Crimes like affray, riot, and violent disorder involve the use of or threat of violence and disrupt public peace and order.

Sentencing and Penalties

The sentencing for violent crimes in British law reflects the gravity of using force. For example:

  • Assault: Sentences can range from community orders for minor assaults to several years of imprisonment for more serious cases.
  • Robbery: Typically attracts substantial custodial sentences due to the violence or threat involved.
  • Burglary: Sentences vary, with more severe penalties for aggravated burglary involving violence.
  • Homicide: Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, while manslaughter sentences depend on the circumstances, including the level of violence used.

Comparative Legal Perspectives

In examining “a force et armes,” it is also beneficial to consider its counterparts in other legal systems. Many jurisdictions have similar concepts, even if they do not use the same phrase.

United States

In the United States, the equivalent phrase is “with force and arms.” It appears in historical legal documents and indictments, particularly in the context of common law offences. Modern American law still significantly emphasises using force in categorising and penalising crimes. For instance, the distinction between robbery (theft with force) and larceny (theft without force) is clear and crucial in the legal process.


In contemporary French law, the principles encapsulated by “a force et armes” continue under different terminology. French criminal law distinguishes between violent and non-violent offences, with harsher penalties for those involving violence. The Napoleonic Code embeds these principles, influencing many legal systems worldwide.

Legal Theories and Justifications

The rationale behind differentiating crimes involving force and arms from other crimes lies in several legal theories and justifications:

  1. Deterrence: The threat of harsher penalties for violent crimes is a deterrent. It aims to reduce the occurrence of such crimes by discouraging potential offenders.
  2. Retribution: Using force in committing a crime is viewed as an aggravating factor that warrants a proportionately severe response from the justice system.
  3. Public Safety: Violent crimes significantly threaten public safety and order. Harsher penalties are justified to protect society and maintain public peace.
  4. Victim Impact: Crimes involving force and arms often have more severe impacts on victims, including physical harm, psychological trauma, and financial loss. The justice system aims to address these impacts through more stringent penalties.

Criticisms and Controversies

While the differentiation between violent and non-violent crimes is widely accepted, it is not without criticisms and controversies:

  1. Proportionality: Some argue that the justice system sometimes fails to maintain proportionality in sentencing, leading to excessively harsh penalties for certain violent crimes while under-penalising others.
  2. Overcriminalisation: The broad categorisation of what constitutes “force” or “arms” can sometimes lead to the overcriminalisation of minor offences, disproportionately impacting certain groups.
  3. Systemic Bias: Critics highlight that systemic biases within the legal system can result in unequal treatment of individuals based on race, socio-economic status, and other factors, particularly in the context of violent crimes.
  4. Rehabilitation vs. Punishment: The emphasis on harsher penalties for violent crimes often prioritises punishment over rehabilitation, which some believe undermines efforts to reform offenders and reduce recidivism.


“A force et armes” is a historical legal term that has significantly influenced the categorisation and penalisation of violent crimes. Although the explicit use of the term has diminished in modern British law, the principles it represents continue to shape the legal landscape. The differentiation between violent and non-violent crimes remains crucial in the administration of justice, reflecting a balance between deterrence, retribution, public safety, and victim impact.

Contemporary legal systems, including that of Britain, strive to navigate the complexities of these principles while addressing criticisms and ensuring fairness and proportionality in sentencing. As legal theories and societal values evolve, so too will the interpretation and application of concepts akin to “a force et armes,” maintaining their relevance in safeguarding justice and public order.

A Force Et Armes FAQ'S

“A Force Et Armes” is a legal term derived from French, which translates to “by force and arms” in English. It refers to the use of physical force or weapons in the commission of a crime.

Crimes that involve the use of physical force or weapons, such as armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, or burglary while armed, can be classified as “A Force Et Armes.”

The consequences for committing a crime “A Force Et Armes” can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific offense. However, they often carry more severe penalties compared to similar crimes committed without the use of force or weapons. This can include longer prison sentences, higher fines, or enhanced charges.

Yes, a person can still be charged with “A Force Et Armes” even if they did not physically harm anyone. The use of force or weapons in the commission of a crime is sufficient to meet the criteria for this classification.

Yes, it is possible to defend against a charge of “A Force Et Armes.” Common defences may include lack of intent, mistaken identity, self-defence, or proving that the force or weapons were not used in the commission of a crime.

In some cases, a person may still be charged with “A Force Et Armes” even if they were acting in self-defence. However, self-defence can be a valid legal defence to mitigate or dismiss the charges, depending on the circumstances and the applicable self-defence laws in the jurisdiction.

The specific laws or statutes that define “A Force Et Armes” can vary depending on the jurisdiction. It is important to consult the relevant criminal code or legal resources specific to the jurisdiction where the offense occurred.

In some cases, a person who was coerced or forced to commit a crime “A Force Et Armes” may have a valid defence. However, the specific circumstances and evidence surrounding the coercion or force will be crucial in determining the outcome of the case.

Yes, a person can still be charged with “A Force Et Armes” even if they were acting under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, the influence of drugs or alcohol may be considered as a mitigating factor during sentencing or in determining the appropriate penalties.

Yes, a person who was a minor at the time of the offense can still be charged with “A Force Et Armes.” However, the specific laws and procedures regarding the prosecution of minors may differ from those applicable to adults, and the court may consider the defendant’s age as a mitigating factor during sentencing.

Related Phrases
No related content found.

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th June 2024.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

  • Page URL:
  • Modern Language Association (MLA):A Force Et Armes. DLS Solicitors. June 16 2024
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):A Force Et Armes. DLS Solicitors. (accessed: June 16 2024).
  • American Psychological Association (APA):A Force Et Armes. Retrieved June 16 2024, from website:
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts