Mutual Confrontation

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Mutual Confrontation

Postby Moe Mensale » Sat Sep 26, 1998 7:32 pm

We usually center our discussions on the assailant(s) vs the victim and what is "self-defense" and what constitutes "appropriate response." But what about a slightly different situation?

Scenario - two strangers, Bill & Ted, (non-martial artists) are on neutral ground (a restaurant, for example). Bill & Ted are about the same age and physical makeup and both wear Dockers. Each is minding his own business when IT (whatever IT is) happens. Words are exchanged, tempers flair, egos start building and the situation completely deteriorates. Verbal confrontation gives way to physical confrontation and fists (and furniture) start flying.

After the dust settles, the cops find Bill on the ground and Ted standing over him. Bill starts screaming "LAWSUIT!" and Ted counters with "SELF-DEFENSE!"

Do either of these guys have any legal standing?
Moe Mensale
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Location: Boca Raton, FL

Mutual Confrontation

Postby Jason Bernard » Mon Sep 28, 1998 3:34 pm

Osu Moe,

I won't pretend to be a lawyer because I am
not one. But from what I know about self
defense and the law a lot would depend on
any witnesses.

Without witnesses any lawsuit or defense
would come down to essentially raw chance
and the skill of the lawyers.

But with witnesses it becomes an issue of
who threw the first punch (or even who started the fight at a verbal level). Did Bill kick Tom when he was down (hardly self defense at that point). More or less as I understand it you cannot claim self defense if you used more force than what was opposing you, and you also may not up the ante of the fight to a new level (you cannot go into a fist fight and then start using a baseball bat and claim self defense).

As for Tom, as was pointed on previously.
Civil court guilt is based on a percentage
of guilt so he may have a case in any event.

Jason Bernard
Posts: 157
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Evansville, IN, USA

Mutual Confrontation

Postby Jason Bernard » Thu Oct 01, 1998 6:21 pm


Good question Cecil. According to a police
officer friend of mine (nidan) the law
usually doesn't explicitly but it is kind
of connected to temporary insanity. See

Note, as Sensei Van Canna pointed out in
the "old" forums. A huge gorilla attacking
a normal sized person allows the normal
sized person some latitude.

However, barring any physical reason for
a person to "explode" into an animal rage
and become the aggressor your only hope
is to argue an emotional reason that you
saw red. I.e. temporary insanity. That
is for the moment of the battle you were
not sane and hence not legally responsible
for the results. But usually, you can only
argue that if there is an emotional
connection, i.e. a family member being
threatened, excessive provocation (highly
doubtful if it would fly), etc.

Keep in mind that a good attorney can
practically argue anything. If you could
get some martial experts on the stand to
testify that a trained warrior will fly into
a rage when seriously threatened ... well,
you see where I am going. Get a good

Jason Bernard
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Joined: Thu Sep 17, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Evansville, IN, USA

Mutual Confrontation

Postby Cecil » Fri Oct 02, 1998 5:36 am

Does the law take into account the fear/addrenaline/mad combat rush factor? I have seen many a fight as a youth were the only thing that stopped the combatants from killing each other or one fighter from killing or maiming another is OUTSIDE intervention from a bystander. Why? Because one or both of them seemed to be operating more in a primal/animal mode than that of a rational human being. I know that the "reasonable person" standard applies in some areas of law, but come on? If some big, frothing, gorilla is bent on ripping your head off and you knock him out, what grounds does he have to stand on? Perhaps I am thinking in terms of "what is right" vs "what is legal" and the gap that sometimes exists between the two.

Yours in frustration,

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Joined: Thu Sep 24, 1998 6:01 am
Location: Washington DC area, USA

Mutual Confrontation

Postby Robb in Sacramento » Fri Oct 02, 1998 5:51 am

The different responses to the initial post point to some of the variables one would need to consider after one defended oneself. Since we don't know what "it" was that started the confrontation, it opens "it" up to more variations. But lets take a couple.

But first the caveat, this is a question that will be answered differently around the country. In some places, for example, there is a recognition of the concept of "fighting words." That is, the courts in these jurisdictions would view certain comments directed toward another person as intended to elicit physical confrontation. In other places, the same words would not be sufficient provocation to enter into combat.

Most places will look for a person to avoid combat and expect, at minimum, that before one defends oneself, one is in reasonable (there's a word that could open up a whole thread) fear of emminient harmful or perhaps offensive contact. (Harmful might be a person attempting to hit you, offensive might be a person engaging in unwanted touching). In most places, there does not need to be actual contact before one may defend oneself, the reasonable fear allows one to take defensive action. For example, it is unlikely a court would expect a person to actually allow him or herself to be cut by a knife before defending him or herself. A person brandishing a knife in a threatening way and making movement to cut would typically justify a defensive response.

In most places, the court is also going to look to see if the person defending him or herself took advantage of an opportunity to escape the confrontation. Even if you are in reasonable fear, if you have a reasonable means of avoiding confrontation, the court would expect you to take the non confrontational out. Again, your avenue of escape needs to be reasonable. You are not expected, for example, to leap from a height or put yourself at further risk by your escape.

As some have pointed out, one may also defend another, but since this post is getting much longer and more complicated than I would like, I will save that for some other time.

Again, in our country, it is the sovereign states (or commonwealth if you happen to be in say, Massachusetts) that in theory control the police power. One's civil and criminal liability in a self defense situation will typically be governed by the law of the state where the confrontation takes place. In other words, know the local rules. In some areas of the country, getting drunk and getting in a fight is viewed as fairly normal recreational activity. In California, it gets you arrested, and if you have any money, it gets you involved in the wonderful word of civil litigation. In Texas, well lets not go there.

The guys in the dockers should have saved themselves the hassle they are both in for and settled their differences with a game of horse.
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Location: Sacramento, California, USA

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