5 Elements of Self-Defense
Here are the five elements of self defense that I cover in complete detail in this offer:
You can’t start the fight. That’s the first element—you can’t have been the initial aggressor, and then justify your use of force as self-defense. If a prosecutor reviews your case and sees evidence that suggests you might have started the fight, you are a vulnerable target for conviction.
The law allows you to defend yourself from an attack that’s either happening or about to happen very soon, meaning within seconds. It’s not intended to justify vengeance for some past act of violence, nor to “stop” a speculative future attack that you have time to avoid by other means. You can think of the element of imminence as a window that opens and closes. Before the window of imminence is open—before the threat is actually occurring or imminently about to occur—you can’t use defensive force. After the window of imminence has closed —after the threat is over—you again cannot use
The law puts any use of force into one of two buckets: the non-deadly force bucket, or the deadly force bucket. What qualifies as deadly force? Legally, deadly force is more broadly defined than only force that kills. Force that can cause death is part of the definition, but deadly force also includes force that causes serious bodily injury, like maiming injuries, as well as rape.What qualifies as non-deadly force? Non-deadly force is essentially all lesser degrees of force that cannot readily cause death or serious bodily injury. If the threat you’re facing is non-deadly, then you’re only allowed to use non-deadly force in response. If the force you’re facing is deadly in nature, then you’re entitled to use deadly force OR non-deadly force to defend yourself.
Could you have safely avoided the fight? A minority of about 13 states impose a legal duty to run away, when you can do so safely, rather than fight. These are called “duty-to-retreat” states. The large majority of states do not impose such a legal duty to retreat, even if you could have done so with complete safety. These are the “stand-your-ground” states. In the minority 13 states that do impose a legal duty to retreat, however, failing to run when you safely could have is not lawful, loses you the required element of avoidance, and therefore loses you self-defense. Even the duty-to-retreat states only impose that legal duty when retreat is possible with complete safety.
This is the “umbrella” element because it overlays the other four. Bottom line: We’re not required to make perfect decisions in self-defense, just reasonable ones. What’s reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another, however. This element of reasonableness is partly a reflection of the particular defender under the specific circumstances. The reasonable perception of, and defensive options for, a defender who is young, healthy, and fit may well differ from the reasonable perceptions and defensive options of an elderly, ill, or disabled defender.
In principle, The 5 Elements Are Easy … But Real Life is Complicated. And that’s precisely why we expand on them at Law of Self Defense: We help you understand the law of self-defense so that you can not only make yourself hard to kill, you can also make yourself hard to convict.
By Andrew Branca, A Self-Defense Attorney
After you have read these 5 elements, you may wish to call us for further and proper training in Sslf-Defense or Defense of Another, at 618-303-5264. We have classes schedule from January thru April, 2023.