Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Whack a Mole

Given the recent to-do about people standing their ground and whatnot, resulting in injury and/or death of a participant, I thought it might be interesting to make a pass by my state's laws regarding such things.

You can peruse the codes here.

Nothing really new, but I was reminded of what one is or is not allowed to do when push comes to shove in these parts, and while all state laws are not the same, much less in other countries, a couple of things you might not know that you probably should.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, don't rely on this information to get you out of trouble.

First, the use-of-force in general is limited in a number of ways; and the use of deadly force is yet more constricted.

Generally, you are allowed to defend yourself if attacked, with force appropriate to the level of threat. You should make that choice with care, because you might have to justify it in a criminal or civil court. Or both. The general rule is, What would a reasonable person in your shoes have done in those circumstances?

Guy who steps from an alley with a baseball bat who wants to knock your head out of the park, you are allowed to take him down by any means necessary to stop him. Ditto, he heads for your spouse or child or even an innocent bystander.

Protecting yourself or a third party against a felonious assault (or even a felony) gets you leeway, and this can include deadly violence as a response.

If a police officer asks you to stop that bad guy by shooting him, you are theoretically protected, assuming you don't know for a fact that the order is illegal, in which case, no protection. 

You cannot violently resist arrest by a duly-sworn LEO, because this is a crime whether or not the arrest is legal. If you get busted and didn't do the crime, punching out the arresting officer is still a no-no. 

If you wake up one night in your bed to find that your dog didn't woof at the burglar looming over you, you are allowed, in Oregon, under the defense-of-one's-castle edict, to let all the air out of the guy, if he's armed or not. 

However, you can't chase him outside and then ventilate him as he runs away.

Property defense per se doesn't allow for deadly violence. You see somebody creeping your car, or even stealing it, you aren't allow to poke holes in him for that alone.

If you are the aggressor in a fight, i.e., you started it, you can't claim self-defense, win or lose.

Nor is dueling allowed, which means in this case, an agreement to do battle in the future. (Unless said combat is specifically authorized by law. I'm not sure about what this means, but maybe it has to do with sport: You  step into a MMA ring and try like hell to take the other guy's head off and manage it? As long as the ref lets you, you can do that, but–don't make plans to finish the match behind the dumpster if you aren't done yet.)

The future here doesn't have to be at the Oaks at dawn on Tuesday; it is any time subsequent to the agreement. 

Which means this: If you invite somebody to step outside the bar to settle your differences hand-to-hand, you can't claim self-defense for your use-of-force; more, if you are invited to step outside and you go? That kills your claim for self-defense, too, since you are both de facto in agreement to duel. Both of you can be charged, though that doesn't happen very often. 

If you decline to step outside, but when you do leave, the other guy is waiting and he takes a swing at you? You can deck him. If he steps in as if he's going to take the swing and you beat him to it? There's no law says you can't throw the first punch if you believe you are about to get your nose smashed. 

The operating mode seems to be, What would the D.A. and a jury think about it? If you believe no indictment, or "not guilty," then probably you are safe. At least at the criminal trial ...

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