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Ins and Outs of Self Defense — Part One

Welcome to the MyHighTechSecurity store and blog. Pull up a chair and stay for a while as we explore the basic concepts of self-defense and how it works out in real life.

Please understand that these concepts apply to the use of even pepper spray, stun guns, and steel batons. You don’t have to defend yourself with a knife or firearm to find yourself in difficult, legal trouble. If you spray a person with pepper spray in an attempt to defend yourself, you may still be charged with a crime and have to defend yourself in court.

Note that while I have studied these concepts for decades I am not a lawyer and you should not take my advice as legally binding. Always consult your own lawyer to ensure you are staying on the correct side of the law. There’s a side note about that, though. Your Uncle Harry may be a great real estate attorney, but he may know little about the ins and outs of self-defense. The wrong advice, even from an attorney, can still get you in a world of trouble if you defended yourself against a person seeking to do you harm.

So how do you know you are getting good advice from a qualified attorney. Often the best attorney is one to whom the police would turn to if they find themselves in trouble over a violent, on-the-job incident. Do some low-key checking around and find out just who your local policeman would call on and you may have found the attorney you can count on at need.

Self-defense is a legal concept that goes back to the most common law possible. In virtually every society it was recognized that an innocent person could defend himself against an attacker seeking to do him harm. Over the years many of the issues surrounding that right became codified, or part of the written laws.

A key ingredient is what has already been mentioned – you generally have to be an “innocent party” and not the aggressor, or instigator of the incident. If you start a fight the courts usually look with disfavor when you claim self-defense as to why you hurt the other party. There are some exceptions to that, though, but you should not count on them coming to your rescue. For instance, a disproportionate response by the other party may allow you to claim self-defense. If you slap someone and they pull a knife on you in return, you can almost always legally defend yourself against the knife attack. I would advise not to slap the person, though, to avoid the problem in the first place.

Another exception would be if you were to start a fight, but then attempt to quit it and back away. If it is clear that you have ceased fighting and the other person continues to press the attack against you it might be a valid claim of self-defense if you defend yourself against the ongoing attack. These nuances are dependent upon the laws in your particular state, how the courts have interpreted them, and how the local prosecuting attorney wants to enforce them.

In Ins and Outs of Self Defense — Part Two I’ll take a look at several legal doctrines that can make a difference between you being justified in self-defense or being on the hook and prosecuted for assault or worse.

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