When someone attacks you with physical force, or what you believe to be a threat of physical force, you have the right to defend yourself. In fact, you have the right to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to stop the attacker and protect yourself from injury.
Note: The key words throughout this article are, “reasonable and necessary”.
What is self-defense?
When you defend yourself against an attacker, you can use whatever means necessary to prevent him from harming you. The law allows you to use all the force you need to, with-in reason, to stop, overcome or prevent the aggressor from injuring you physically.
You pull into a parking lot to park your car and another car wanted the same parking space. Horns are honked, choice words exchanged, and you park your car. The other driver gets out of his car and approaches you yelling and screaming wanting to know why you took his parking space. You argue back and forth, call each other names and both of you end up going your separate ways.
In this example, there was no real threat of physical harm. Arguing is not a reason to start hitting and fighting. If both parties choose to stand there, discuss loudly, and argue their point than that is our freedom. If punches start flying, then the person who threw the first punch is guilty of a crime.
Using the same scenario, the man approaches you in an aggressive manner with his fists clenched yelling and screaming, he is going to kick your butt for taking his parking space. As he walks up to you, he takes a swing, and whether he connects or you duck out of the way, at this point you have the right to use whatever means or forces reasonable and necessary to defend yourself or prevent him from harming you. You may fight and hit back until he stops his attack.
Using the same scenario, the man approaches you in an aggressive manner with a weapon in his hands yelling and screaming, he is going to kill you for taking his space. At this point, you believe you are in danger of great bodily harm or death so you pick up a weapon of your own, use enough force that is reasonable and necessary, and protect yourself, even if it means to take his life.
In the above examples, especially examples #2 and #3, it is critical to understand that articulation is the key to a good case in court. Being able to explain your belief that you honestly felt there was no other choice or resolution to the problem, and you are able to give good reasons as to why you did what you did to defend yourself.
When the Police arrive on the scene of these scenarios to investigate, they are going to look for three things,1) who is the primary aggressor. 2) Did the victim believe the self-defense was the last resort, reasonable and necessary? 3) Did the victim use reasonable and necessary force to stop the aggressor?
It is vital that you take every precaution and exhaust all other efforts to try to resolve the situation before resorting to actual physical force when defending yourself. This includes trying to run away, escaping and saying words such as, “I do not want any trouble”, “I am sorry” and” there must be another way we can resolve this situation”. Think how it would look in court in front of a jury if you explained that you tried everything to reason with the suspect before you had to resort to physical force.
On the other hand, you can carry self-defense too far by not stopping your force when the aggressor has stopped his attack. This is where most victims of attack become a suspect and end up in jail. Once your aggressor has fallen and ceases to attack you, and you continue to pummel him senseless, then you are in the wrong.
The very best defense is always to avoid trouble. However, sometime in our lives, we may come across someone who will threaten or try to harm us and when that time comes and all else fails, you have the right to use whatever force or means that is reasonable and necessary to defend yourself.
Article also posted on Triond.com and AassociatedContent.com by Scott Hallock