Michael Hackett wrote:
I don't think Don is correct about most states requiring an individual to flee before the doctrine of self-defense applies. There are still some, certainly, and even those have room for the quick and close encounter to be a matter of self-defense. There is almost no protection against being sued civilly; the real protection is against an unfavorable judgement. To get to that point remains a very expensive and time-consuming proposition. You can be right and it still can cost you a small fortune to defend yourself and prevail at trial. Often the plaintiff has nothing and even if you receive "costs and fees" from the court, collecting them is another matter.
If you truly are in a situation where you have to protect yourself or loved ones, then you simply do what you have to do and it will get sorted out later. It might be expensive, it might be troublesome, it might even be emotionally painful, but getting killed or seriously injured seems much worse to me. The old police joke of "Its better to be tried by six than carried by twelve." has a ring of truth.
My understanding is that indeed most states do hold the duty to flee as being the norm. You must be able to prove that you could not leave the situation without risk to yourself or others (such as family and friends). However, there are varying interpretations as to what that duty entails (of course!). If you simply cannot pack your wife and kids into the minivan to get away from a guy weilding a pipe wrench, then fleeing is not an option, and you can generally defend them and yourself. At the same time, getting into a gunfight at 100 yards off, when you could just have easily ducked down an alleyway 2 feet from you, would be a hard sell on self defense.
Here in Michigan, you basically have the duty to flee even in your own home. You must retreat, if possible, into a safer area of the house. Morally this is reprehensible, but ethicly it is required. You can claim self defense when you are backed into a corner. If you have wife, kids, loved ones, etc to protect as well, and they're scattered throughout the house, then you MAY not have to retreat further into your own home as you cannot guarantee safe flight of all family members without risking injury/death of a loved one. It gets handled on a case by case basis.
The Stand Your Ground
legislation being proposed in Michigan, and having already been enacted into law in other states (such as Florida) removes the duty to flee and allow the law abiding citizen the right to self defense and defense of others an any location they are legally allowed to be. It also strips the aggressor or his estate from being able to take the defender to civil court should it be deemed that it was a legitimate self defense situation.
Does it mean we all get to be tough guys? No. Does that mean we all get to enforce the law? No. It is designed primaily to allow the law abiding citizen to focus his thoughts on his own defense rather than going through a legal "checklist" before defending himself.
Check the laws in your states. Invariably you'll find some language that limits the self-defense claim and mentions the duty to remove one's self from the situation if at all possible.
And not to hijack the thread with this, it is VERY IMPORTANT for any martial artist, weapon practicioner, firearm enthusiast, etc to KNOW the laws in one's own state regarding the ability to use their "tools" in their defense. Just as the tutorial on "assault" and "battery" opened my eyes to the technicalities, reading the laws should be required material for us all.