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Old 09-20-2002, 10:46 AM   #1
Dojo: Shobukan/ASU
Location: DC
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 25
Street encounters and the law

I have a question for those who have knowledge in the field of law.. I carry a jo with me in the truck because you never know when you might really need it. Yet I am unsure on how the law deals with this.

For instance, an *imaginary* situation:
I am in a bad part of town, blocked at a red light and three men approach my truck. For some reason (they don't like my looks, they're high on PCP, whatever) one slams my hood as they walk by. I say something, he says something back, now they are coming towards my driver side door. I get out and grab my jo. Stop.

Forget if what I did was wise or not. Is getting out of the truck with my weapon legal? If there are three and I am one, and I strike them with the jo, is that legally defensible? And, if they are two? One?

Is a first strike illegal, even if the situation is very threatening? Where does one draw the line in the eyes of the law?
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Old 09-20-2002, 07:22 PM   #2
Kevin Leavitt
Kevin Leavitt's Avatar
Dojo: Team Combat USA
Location: Olympia, Washington
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 4,376
Depends. If you hurt them, they would probably take you to court. Their lawyer would ask why did you get out of the car instead of driving away?

They may say you did something to them like tried to run them over when they were crossing the road, then you jumped out of the vehicle with a stick and beat them.

It is all in the perception and the details of the situation.

Nothing illegal about carrying a stick in the car though...it is the intent and manner, and situation in which you use it.

My advice is to make sure you have plenty of witnesses that see things your way, or make sure no one is left alive to complain.

Your best bet would be to drive away.

In most states it is not illegal to carry a firearm in the car. Lets say you break down on the side of the road, no cell phone, you are a woman, and a car pulls up. There is nothing wrong with warning the person that you are armed with a loaded gun and that they should go to the nearest exit and phone for help...if they wish to help you.

If you point it at them and threaten them you are breaking the law...again, it is all in the details of the intent and situation.

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Old 09-20-2002, 09:00 PM   #3
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
Location: Melbourne, Florida
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 824
CAVEAT: Everything below is based soley on a hypothetical and if you really need help seek professional and competent legal advice and not the advice of people here on the board. The information here is based on general laws which are subject to many exceptions and varying state laws.

An attorney will not ask why you got out of your car. They will ask, "did you feel that you were going to be harmed immediately." or "did you feel that your life was immediately threatened". Although they might ask, "did you have a safe means of escape." A good attorney will work with the facts of the actual case and not blame their client -- makes for bad client relations.

Sure anyone can try to take you to court for injuring but that doesn't mean they'll win.

Taking the first strike will call for some legal manuvering, and if this happened I'd recommend seeking a good defense attorney. Usually, the courts frown up you striking first but then again if they posed such an imminent threat to you then you might have a chance. However, this does NOT mean you can hit someone for giving you a dirty look or calling you a name. You have to take the surrounding circumstances into play.

Also, the answer depends on the type of self-defense laws you have in your state. Some look a solely that particular individual's (the victim) point of view, which gives you more leeway. Another and oppostie view looks not at the individual victim's point of view but from the point of view of a "reasonable person", an outsider so to speak. This is harder for you because your actions have to meet this "reasonable" or objective view. Other states mix the two. Such as "a reasonable person standing in your shoes under the circumstances". These sound like minor differences, especially to lay persons but the difference could win or lose a case. This is why an attorney is required.

If this hypothetic situation actually happened, you need an attorney.

About the jo as a weapon, I don't think that will fit within some of the gun control laws. For example in Florida, you can carry a gun in your car but you have to take a couple of steps before you can access it. If you carry the gun under the car seat, it must be so under the seat where you have to get out of the car to access it. You can't just reach over and grab it. But this is a gun, and you'd have to find out if your jo would fall under this kind of deadly weapon law.

Also you need to find out if you have a duty to retreat law in your state. A minority of states have this law such as Florida. Florida requires you to take a reasonable means of escape if you can do so SAFELY. This changes the hypothetic fact scenario, especially the first strike. If this law is in effect then you need a good criminal defense attorney and you could be charged for criminal assault and battery, and definently civil claims could be brought against you as well. This law would definently make it harder if you could have stayed in the car and driven away -- safely escaping.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 09-20-2002, 09:28 PM   #4
Kevin Wilbanks
Location: Seattle/Southern Wisconsin
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 788
Thanks Anne,

I was going to mention that duty to retreat thing. I had been told about that, but wasn't aware that it was only a state law in a minority of states.


Another thing to consider is that the Jo might get you into more trouble than, say, a baseball bat, because it's express purpose is to function as a weapon. Truck drivers often carry short, heavy clubs, but they all say "TIRE BUDDY" on them very plainly - the primary purpose of the club supposedly being to thump the tires to listen for proper inflation/flatness. I'm not sure of the legalities involved, but this practice must still go on for a reason.


Regardless of the legalities, I personally feel that it would be foolish to get out the car to attack three guys with a Jo, if you could drive away. Forget 'duty to retreat', how about 'wise retreat'?

Even if you were legally justified and morally fine with killing all three of them, I feel it would be a tactical mistake to get out of the car with only a Jo. What if all three of them have .357 magnums tucked into their belts? I wouldn't get out unless I had a weapon and the skills with which to kill all three of them faster than they could withdraw and use lethal concealed weapons of their own.

If you've got some kind of ass-kicking/revenge stuff to work through, I suggest taking up some kind of competitive sport art like boxing or NHB fighting. Spare your loved ones from having to attend a premature funeral.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 09-20-2002 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 09-20-2002, 11:37 PM   #5
Dojo: Nashville Aikikai
Location: Ft Campbell, KY
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 26
Bear in mind that some courts will expect a trained fighter to be able to measure the amount of force used; morally you should only do what you need to do to allow you to extricate yourself from the situation. The military runs a school to train those operating behind enemy lines called SERE--Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape...note that evade comes BEFORE resist. Just a thought.
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Old 09-21-2002, 02:28 PM   #6
Dojo: Messores Sensei (Largo, Fl.)
Location: Florida
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,267
Re: Street encounters and the law

Richard Fox (rgfox5) wrote:
I carry a jo with me in the truck because you never know when you might really need it....For instance....I say something, he says something back, now they are coming towards my driver side door. I get out and grab my jo. Stop.
This sounds like some youthful fantasy. A jo?!

From what I've read, you'd be called on provocation ("I say something") and battery (getting out rather than driving away and the "retreat thing"). But don't take my word. If you're looking for more than a quick fix, look up:

Massad Ayood-He writes mostly about gun laws, but the principles obtain;

Peyton Quinn;

The last couple of issues of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts (a two-part article on the law and self-defense);

SELF DEFENSE: Crime and Violence: Joseph R. Svinth (11/99)

SELF DEFENSE: Legal Self-defense: A Layman's Guide for Non-specialists: Joseph R. Svinth (11/99)

SELF DEFENSE: Targets: Joseph R. Svinth (11/99)


Don J. Modesto
St. Petersburg, Florida
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Old 09-21-2002, 03:34 PM   #7
Bruce Baker
Dojo: LBI Aikikai/LBI ,NJ
Location: Barnegaat, NJ
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 893
The theory of using a jo or Bokken in a real life would be a fraction of one percent, so unless there is a simular type stick about, odds are this won't happen .... unless you are attacked while carrying them.

The chances of three or more people coming after you is also slim, unless you have been targeted as a victim.

In any possible scenario, there are moral as well as legalities to be considered.

The only time you might get away scot-free is when the attackers have sticks or clubs, and you have absolutely no way out. Then the advice of using minimum force to contain the situation is what will be considered ... if you are successfull in your physical endeavors and don't get blindsided with a trip to the hospital, or a dirt nap.

I don't know why you brought this up, but I would suppose it has something to do with your life, or what you have seen. Step back, anylyse the situation, and see if there is another way to deal with it before it excalates to fighting in the street.
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Old 09-21-2002, 06:28 PM   #8
Paul Klembeck
Location: silicon valley
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 43
You should also be aware that displaying a weapon is in itself a crime (felony menacing), independent of whatever the law says about sticks. It is not wise to display a weapon unless you believe you will be forced to use it in legitimate self defense.
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Old 09-22-2002, 09:37 AM   #9
Dojo: Shobukan/ASU
Location: DC
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 25
Thanks for the reference information, Don. I will check these materials out. The scenario I invented was just that, invented, not something that has happened to me. In my travels however, I have come upon and heard of similar situations. Once (I posted this on aikiweb a couple of years back) a friend and I were surrounded by 5 guys, one of whom had a machete, in Port of Spain in Trinidad. Myself and two friends (non fighters) and several girls were accosted by a gang of guys on the back streets of Annapolis coming home from a bar one night, years ago. Reports of being stopped in a car, boxed in at a red light and robbed, are rampant in Jamaica and Trinidad. Carjackings are not rare in Washington DC where I live. So I turn these scenarios over in my mind sometimes, analyzing the best recourse. My question related more to the legality of a response with a jo. A childlike fantasy? No: more like a very possible reality. I would have given a lot for a jo when confronted with a machete.

Thanks for all the information on the legal issues surrounding defending oneself with a weapon, it is food for thought.
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Old 09-22-2002, 11:04 AM   #10
Dojo: Shobukan/ASU
Location: DC
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 25
PS. Oh yeah, once in DC about ten years ago I was a very poor, black neighborhood called Anacostia. It was around lunch time, I was coming out of a grocery store and one guy sitting there asked me if I had a nickel. I told him I didn't have any spare change. Next thing I knwo he says aloud to a bunch of guys standing around "This f--king white boy says he ain't got a spare nickel!" I was very unhappy to see them all come towards me. My car was right in front, I got in it and started the engine, the original guy stepped up to the driver side and started rapping on the window "open the window, open the window!" and two were in front , two on passenger side. I started to drive slowly and the guys in front banged on the hood, "stop the car, motherf--ker". I was not boxed in by cars so I was able to drive away, the guys in front simply had to get out of the way or get run over. This kind of experiences are why I carry a jo at all times in the truck, and yes I know how to use it pretty well!
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Old 09-22-2002, 12:15 PM   #11
Kevin Wilbanks
Location: Seattle/Southern Wisconsin
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 788
If stuff like that happened to me where I live/go, I'd forget the Jo and keep a .45 in the glovebox. It may sound harsh to some Aikido types, but in many situations such as you describe, simply producing the weapon is likely to diffuse the situation (i.e., cause the assailants to run like hell). If I had to get out of the car to fight four guys, having a jo would only make me feel marginally better. Pointing a .45 at them from inside the car represents a much greater tactical advantage.
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Old 09-22-2002, 12:34 PM   #12
Brian H
Dojo: Aikido of Northern Virginia
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 102

Your real life example from Anacostia is a good way to resolve this type of situation.

You retreated to a safer/enclosed environment (your car).

Then you created distance between you and your attacker (verbal only, but it very well could have gotten worse very quickly had you stuck around- there can be a very fine line between robbery and panhandling)

I am a policeman and have had the benefit of a variety of training. Yesterday I went to the range for a day of tactical shooting. This included an exercise where each officer would unbuckle and jump out of a car, then shoot a several targets set up in different directions. Pistols are much handier than Jo, and they still take a lot time to deploy (seconds count in a emergency). My thought is that you would not have time to get the jo clear of the door if you were rushed.

A second thought is what rational explanation for the jo could you have other than you intent to use it as a weapon? Granted, weapons are not a BAD thing, it is just that they change the dynamic of the situation.

Suspect to Officer:
"My friends and I had just finished a double shift down at the construction site and were on our way to the soup kitchen to help serve dinner as part of a mission of my church. As I walked by this truck, I notice the hood was not latched and pushed it down so it would not pop-up on the guy. -- The next thing I know is this crazy guy jumps out an charges us with this big riot baton and starts beating the crap out of us."

I like jo. If I were on a hike and wanted a long profile impact weapon, it would be a first choice. It is a powerful tool and would fit the "scene."

For a car I suggest a "mag light" or similar flash light. The C-cell lights are as handy as a baton (longest being around a foot and a half long) and are not as "threatening" as the fat D-cell lights (A friend of mine has a purple D-cell light that he put "Barney" stickers all over - a very serious impact weapon, but does not "look" tactical/ dangerous at all). Just shining a bright light in somebodies face may be enough to make them rethink their attack or ruin their night vision enough to cover your retreat.

You to Officer:
"This guy started pounding on my hood and I thought he was in trouble. I got out of the truck with my 'Barney light' to see if I could help him. All of a sudden he just rushed at me. I kept pushing him away with my hands and my flashlight until he fell down."

Officer to you:
"Is that how he got all those bruises and the knot on his head?"

You to Officer:
"Yes sir, I was just trying to get away."

Last edited by Brian H : 09-22-2002 at 12:43 PM.

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing
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