What are the limits to Self Defense?

By this I mean – when does self defense become a potential criminal charge? Say when you have get into a street fight and the other person attacks first. Do you have the right to seriously injure/kill them?

If someone robs your home and they are armed, but ran away, are you allowed to shoot them?

Is there a place where the law draws a line between the two?
Also, what if in a case of self defense, a martial artist has a chance to choose any move (i.e. The aggressor is looking somewhere else) and then chooses a lethal move even though given the opportunity to incapacitate the opponent?

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8 Responses to What are the limits to Self Defense?

  1. Ashley (Hot Ash) says:

    I was always taught, “It is better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6”

  2. art v says:

    Yes self defense is legal. Shooting someone in the back is not self defense. You don’t “have to” get into a street fight.

    Read the law about justifiable homicide and it will answer your questions.

  3. Mutt says:

    In general, it’s enough force to prevent bodily harm or death. This would include just walking away, physically restraining the person if possible, or, if he is using deadly force, then you can use deadly force. But, if he is incapacitated, you cannot keep kicking him and claim self defense.

    In the case of a person robbing your and is fleeing, that would depend on the state law where you live. This isn’t really self defense, but falls under castle doctrine. If it legal in your state, then you have to ask yourself if your TV is more valuable to you than a human life.

  4. divineintervener says:

    It depends on where you are. In many states, you have a right to self defense even if that means you have to kill the person. In other states, you have no such right.

  5. Doctari says:

    Laws vary depending on where you live of course but a good general rule is you are allowed to protect yourself until out of danger.

    In the above example of a street fight. If you get jumped you can defend yourself but if you clearly win the fight and then begin to kick the attacker in the face while he/she lays prone you have just moved into assault (or worse).

    Shooting someone who is robbing you in the back while they are fleeing is going to be very questionable legally. Generally speaking if you feel your life is threatened you can take that level of steps, shooting a person who is fleeing might well lead to a charge of manslaughter.

  6. Chris Christ says:

    ähm if you shoot someone who runs AWAY from you it´s hardly considered self defence 😉

  7. MikeGolf says:

    There are several limitations on ‘self defense.’

    One of the first and most important is that you had no reasonable alternative. For example – if you could have retreated instead then you lose the ‘self defense’ claim.

    Another critera is the innocent behaviour requirement. If you were arguing with the other person and it escalated into pushing/shoving then into a brawl – you cannot claim self defense.

    The next critera is the requirement that there be an imminent threat. You are allowed to defend yourself – but if your opponent attempts to retreat and you pursue, it is no longer self defense.

    Many states have a ‘castle doctrine’ where you are not required to retreat if you are inside your own home. In fact states such as California have the ‘make my day’ law where the law presumes that you are in fear of your life if an intruder enters your home. However if the intruder attempts to flee – it is no longer self defense if you pursue him once he makes it out of your home. (Note chasing him down and pinning him to the ground until the police arrive is legal as long as you do not attemot to perform any ‘street justice.’

  8. du nomad says:

    The specific answer will depend on the laws of your jurisdiction. But in general, you are permitted to use reasonable force to defend yourself. “Reasonable” basically means “like” or “the same” . . . so you’re only permitted to use deadly force if someone is attacking you with deadly force. Most jurisdictions also draw a line at the point where the aggressor is no longer a threat. In other words, if he’s turning and running away, he’s no longer a threat and you can not shoot him (doing so could be charged as murder).

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