Opinion

Laws of self-defense | The Firearms Lawyer

Many of the people that come to me have legal problems that develop because of misunderstandings about when and where it is appropriate to deploy a weapon.

In one case, my 135-pound client alleged he was assaulted by a 300-pound unarmed man on a city street. The client displayed a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol for which he had a Concealed Pistol License on his person. This ended the confrontation with the assailant, but began a confrontation with the criminal justice system.

There is at least one problem with the scenario above. Had there been two unarmed assailants, the disparity in force would provide legal justification for deploying deadly force. If someone is not in imminent danger of death or grave bodily harm, it is a crime even to display a weapon outside your home in any manner intended to intimidate. Thus, even though the other guy is bigger than you are, you need to know how to outrun him, talk your way out of it or fight — without a weapon.

An armed citizen in Westlake Plaza was knocked to the ground and shot his unarmed assailant. Nevertheless, the armed “victim” (who had a CPL) was not prosecuted. Why? Because he was on the ground and when his assailant started kicking him, he was at risk of death or grave bodily harm. The risk is more imminent when a victim is being kicked on the ground than when standing upright.

The law also recognizes that there is a difference in upper body strength between a male and a female. Thus, a female assaulted by an unarmed male may be justified in deploying deadly force, whereas my 135-pound client should not have deployed his weapon.

Think about the woman that was spit upon and then allegedly assaulted after she exited a Metro bus in Seattle recently. Spitting is an assault and could even transmit a deadly disease. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that a jury would find that any such risk of death or grave bodily harm justifies shooting the assailant. The facts about the rest of the story are still unclear, and it will be interesting to see whether the woman will be charged and convicted of anything.

One of the most interesting “local” stories was the case last year of the police officer that went to Sturgis, S.D., with a motorcycle club called the Iron Pigs. The club, which is composed of firefighters and cops, was in a Sturgis drinking establishment when the Hell's Angels members allegedly converged on the bar and surrounded the Seattle officer, who was soon down on the floor. The fact that there was more than one outlaw biker, and at least one assailant was “putting the boots” to the officer who was down on the floor, must have been what convinced the grand jury not to indict.

If you do anything to provoke a fight or to continue a fight once the assault has stopped, you are no longer the victim and lose your claim to being the innocent party.

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