You have the right to defend yourself, IF you feel you are in danger of being harmed. This can be really tricky. It does not mean that if someone hits you and starts walking away you can hit them back. If a person hits you and then starts walking or running away you are obviously no longer in danger. People think they have the right to “hit you back” but you don’t have the right to hit back, if you are no longer in danger. You have the right to call the police and file a complaint. I know this sounds “unfair” because its normal to want to hit someone who has hit you, but you cannot hit back if you are no longer in danger. So, if someone jumps into your rolled down window and starts hitting you, and won’t stop, you have the right to hit back but if he then starts running away, you do not have the right to chase him down to hit him back or shoot him. If you have time to turn the thought around in your mind “can I shoot him? Is it legal to shoot him?” Then the answer is A RESOUNDING NO.
You can only use as much force as necessary to stop the person from hurting you. In other words, you cannot bring a gun to a fist fight. If someone hits you with their hands, you do not have the right to chase him down pull out a gun and shoot him six times. If the other person is armed with a dangerous weapon then you may use a dangerous weapon to defend yourself. But the simple fact that you got into a fight doesn’t give you the right to go get a weapon and kill someone.
No one can get into your head about whether you believe you are in danger or not. Only you know how afraid you are, but the totality of the circumstances will determine if your fear for your life was reasonable. “You’re too much of a pussy to shoot me.” Is perhaps annoying and maybe even a dare, but it’s not something that will cause you to believe you are in danger.
You cannot run in the house and come back and shoot somebody. You cannot be in safety, like maybe in your car, and the person you were fighting with leaves and then get out of your car to put yourself in harms way, once the fight is over.
If I’m in my car and someone punches me through the window and then walks away laughing, I do not have the right to get out of my car and hunt him down and shoot. What I would do is roll up the window call for help or follow slowly behind. If I don’t know if he has a weapon but I want to make sure the person who just attacked me is caught I would NEVER get out of my car. Since I don’t have a weapon, I actually would be driving away from the scene.
People calling you names, saying things like “what you gonna do?” But walking away should not put you in fear of being harmed. The fact that you are in a car and able to leave the situation without being harmed further is an indication that you are no longer in a position to say you are in fear of your life.
Self defense is for people who are in imminent harm. That is, they are about to be harmed immediately. Not that you lost the fight, got embarrassed, got in your feelings, but that you are seconds away from being harmed.
So, don’t think that because Darren Wilson got away using the “scary black man” defense, that you too can shoot somebody who got in a fight with you and is now walking away. (I am in no way suggesting that is what happened, but I am saying, even assuming that what he said is what happened he was no longer in danger) This is Not self defense. Shooting a person who has walked away from a fight is at least second degree murder. I will talk about the difference in charges when killing someone next time. But don’t think that following someone because you want to know why he is in your neighborhood, or going after someone because he “hit [me] first” is self defense. It’s not.
Self defense is very simple, if someone is hitting you and won’t stop then you have the right to hit back. If the person won’t stop hitting you and you have a weapon and you think “he’s not going to stop hitting me” then you can use enough force to stop that person from hitting you. If he is hitting you or pulls out a knife or a brick and starts trying to hit you and you’re thinking “he’s not going to stop attacking me unless I’m dead” then you may use deadly force.
Women tend to think they can keep hitting a man and he cannot touch her. That is no longer the case. I saw a tape of a girl beating on a boy in school and she wouldn’t stop, but he refused to hit her back, so she kept pounding on him. To his credit, he never did hit her, he covered his head to avoid serious injury. But the reality is that if he had hit her back, it likely would have been in self defense because it was clear she was not going to stop hitting him until someone stopped taping and got her off of him.
This also applies to defense of others. So, in the case of the boy in high school who would not hit this girl back, if someone had hit her to stop her from hitting him, that would be in defense of someone else, but the person couldn’t go get a gun and shoot her. You can only use as much force necessary to stop the attack.
Should you find yourself in a position that you had to defend yourself, and the police are called, the rules still apply you don’t answer questions, you give identifying information and you ask for a lawyer. Don’t answer questions.