Yesterday I talked about the bad things that could happen to you if you use excessive force. Today, let’s talk about the application of force (disclaimer; in the police academy this is about 40 hours worth of material, this is only an overview and I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be one).
“That force which is reasonable and necessary” is in the law in most states when it comes to using force to protect yourself. What is reasonable? It’s what a prudent and reasonable person, under the same conditions, with the same amount of information, would do. What kind of person is that? It’s the person that will sit on your jury when the prosecutor decides to prosecute you for whatever crime he/she thinks they can get a conviction on. Prosecutors are always looking for convictions. If they don’t think they can get a conviction, they simply won’t try the person, unless there is public outcry for it (like in the case of George Zimmerman). They are all afraid of what happened in LA and a lot of them are political animals that want to get elected to better offices in the future.
What is necessary? Again that is what a reasonable and prudent person would believe. What that comes down to is what the jury says. So we need to be careful about the amount of force we use on someone else during a self defense situation.
First, force will never be considered self defense if the case is found to be “mutual combat.” Mutual combat boils down to a fight. If you get into a mutual confrontation, then self defense is out the window. Mutual is when you create aggression or show aggression towards someone else before the actual force is used. You have to be the victim beyond a shadow of a doubt. So there is no name calling, stepping outside, or posturing aloud.
As long as it’s not mutual combat, now we can claim self defense rightfully so. Morally you can’t claim self defense when you start a fight with someone in a bar and then that person punches you. I’ve known bouncers that will do things like goading people into self defense. The bouncer would say loudly “Sir, calm down, lets talk about this,” then quietly, so only the person he is talking to can hear, would start calling that person names and making them want to fight. In reality, this is unlawful and immoral, but what the witnesses see is that the bouncer was asking him to calm down and the guy just attacked the bouncer. You may be able to get away with this legally, but we are the good people and don’t use crap like this.
We need to use just enough force to overcome the force someone is using against us so we don’t get hurt. You can think of force at a couple of levels; verbal, holding, pushing, striking, and deadly. You have to stay inside the level the other person creates for you.
The biggest problem is these lines are really blurry sometimes. If there are 4 people striking you with their fists, I would argue that this is deadly force, others may not see it the same way (legally this is called disparity of force).
Simply put, if someone is yelling at you, you can’t hit them. If someone is shoving you, you can’t shoot or stab them. Most people understand this very well and it’s easy to see. What we lose is the end. Once the other person gives up, we need to stop being aggressive. This is exceptionally hard when someone has just attacked and maybe tried to kill you. Once they give up, you need to stop.
Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy way to help you with this. We just need to know and think about this; once the attack is over, we are done. We don’t need to chase the bad guy, we don’t need to catch the bad guy, and we don’t need to punish the bad guy. We need to keep our minds right. We are simply trying to survive the confrontation and get away. If you keep your mindset looking at those two things, we can stay out of the other. This is exceptionally hard in today’s culture. Movies, games, and people we hang out with teach us differently. We really need to watch our thinking when something isn’t going wrong to keep our minds’ right when something bad does happen. Those things we think to our selves everyday is what we will do once our survival instincts kick in.
Make sure you are always thinking survive and get away. Don’t let yourself cheer on people on the news or movies that punish or give the bad guy what they deserve, and most importantly don’t let people hangout with you that will influence that bad behavior. If we talk about self defense and have the people around us say that they will kill anyone that comes into their house or anyone that comes after them, we become those people we hang out with the most. Make sure you recognize when someone is taking you down a path of thinking that you shouldn’t.