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Thread: Question on self-defense

  1. #1
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    Is it possible that both parties in a violent encounter could plead self-defense?
    A little while ago I was walking home from the store at two in the morning, and I was on a sort of meridian where the road veers off. Some guy came around the corner, and I either had the option of walking directly at him, which is something that "warrants alarm" at 2am where I live, or stand there in this awkward location, out in the middle of the road, and watch him until he passes, then walk up behind behind where he was, which is also something you don't do where I live. (The second is what I did, and he was eyein' me weird, and I was watching him, but nothing strange happened.) I realize this may not make a lot of sense when typed, but I'm trying to think of a way to describe the scenario.
    Given the location and circumstances, I reason that it could have easily escalated. A lot of times when walking past a group of people at night, I'll see at least one put his hand to his waist under his shirt like he's got something. It's kind of standard procedure when a stranger walks by.

    Say he did this, and I put my hand to my waist, in case he had hostile intentions. He sees me potentially going for a weapon, and puts his hand on a weapon, and I do the same, see his, pull mine...

    I've read over the RCWs on defense against unlawful force, but what if both parties fear unlawful force on the part of the other, and it escalates from there?

  2. #2
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    Since hours have transpired without a response, I'll weigh in.

    A principle, arguably the primary one, of common law self-defense is 'Be innocent of instigation.' Another is 'Attempt to withdraw.'

    Were your hypothetical to escalate to violence then I would deny both the common law privilege of self-defense.

    The elements of common law self-defense are four; Be innocent of instigation; Be in fear of harm; Use sufficient force only to deliver oneself from evil; Attempt to withdraw.

    An armed society is a polite society.

  3. #3
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    Without directly addressing the facts in your scenario, yes it is certainly possible that both parties to an altercation claim that they were defending themselves. It happens all the time, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. When I was a prosecutor, it was very common for both parties in a domestic violence situation to say that the other person started things, and that they only reacted as necessary.

    If I were you, I would seriously consider moving tosomewhere where people aren't so suspicious/scared of each other.

  4. #4
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    Carrying a weapon in public carries (pun intended) with it the responsibility of coolness and clear thinking in the face of danger. Drawing you weapon when you are not in definable danger is stupid at best and makes you a danger to everyone around you. Freaking out another man into drawing HIS weapon so you draw your weapon is bizarre.

    Even if your actions are clearly self defense, you need to be totally free of any act which reeks of "escalation". On this board we had a clearly defined self defense shooting (two men in a car had exchanged words in a Tacoma Stop and Rob and the Perp finally worked himself up to smashing in the drivers window. Even though technically the defender in the car could have fired as the perp approached the car (under the theory that the perp could have had a gun, for example. He was clearly menacing the pair in the car as he had a friend holding him back till he broke free and smashed in the drivers window) the shooter held his fire till the perp actually broke the window. Even then the family tried to get the defenders prosecuted, despite the fact this was all caught on video!

    Be cautious, watch you six, walk with confidence, look for an opening if there is trouble, but drawing your weapon when another man is reaching for a cigarette is bad.



  5. #5
    Regular Member thebastidge's Avatar
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    Think of it in terms of how you would articulate the scenario to first a police officer, then a prosecutor, then to a jury.

    1st question: "What were you doing out at 2am?" in and of itself, an offensive question to a free person, but circumstances change when circumstances change.

    I don't think a jury would have much sympathy for either of you in the scenario you describe. You haven't articulated it in a precise and specific way: what are the elements of the threat that this guy posed, other than generic "bad neighborhood".

    I'm sure a lawyer would do more research: what shows that it is a bad neighborhood? Number of arrests in the area? Number of unsolved assaults/murders/burglaries/robberies etc?

    Next, show elements of the escalation of threat/force. As others have said, attempts to de-escalate.

    You would still have to prove (rightly or wrongly) that you had legitimate business there, at that time. I would look into trying to move. The best battle is onewhere the enemy is defeatedthrough manouever without every needing to engage.

    The key point in defending your actions is being able to clearly describe events. The practice of analyzing everything in your environment and making mental notes to yourselfnot only ius a good exercise in keeping aware, it can make the difference in your clear recall and description later.


    Be prepared. Be very prepared.

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