Training – Attacker or Defender Which Do You Want to Be? – Part 1 – Blog 21-14

If you ever have to defend yourself in an attack, what would look the best for you. Being the attacker or the defender? During the emotions, dynamics of a self-defense incident, the role you are can quickly change to place you in jeopardy of being labelled the attacker. In Andrew Branca’s excellent book, “The Law of Self Defense;” he thoroughly discusses how necessary the element of “Innocence” is if you are involved in a self-defense incident. If you are found to be the aggressor in an incident, you do not have a self-defense claim.

So how is the incident and your role in it examined. The first question is; was your actions provocative? The courts have defined provocation as: “An affirmative, unlawful act reasonably calculated to produce an affray foreboding injurious or fatal consequences.”

So, your actions must be affirmative. Your actions were such that the response received would reasonably be expected. You can think of this as doing something that you know is going to illicit a response from the other person. It is not an action done by accident. There is some thought involved.

The action must be unlawful. Seeking out someone to fight them would not be lawful. If someone is trying to break into your house who is a stranger, you have the lawful right to use force to prevent that.

The action must be calculated or intentional to produce the fight. You have planned the action knowing it would produce injury or death. The term used frequently is premeditation. Some synonyms for premeditation are plot, plan, purpose, intent, goal or design.

Can your words alone be determined to have made you the attacker? The short answer is no, but if the words are combined with physical acts, they can. Fighting words are, as first defined by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), words which “by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.” Fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment.

The first to use physical force is generally considered to be the attacker in the incident. Does this mean you have to let the attacker strike you or shoot you before you use physical force to defend yourself? The answer is NO! But if you do strike first in an incident of self-defense; you will need to articulate why you did what you did.

What is your reputation? Are you known to be quick to use your fists? Your reputation among others may be allowed to be used in court for you or against you.

You need to examine yourself and take a full accounting of your personality. If necessary, start to change the areas that could be detrimental. If you have a thin skin, develop a tougher hide. Remember, the best fight is the one you avoid. Embrace this tactic.

In the next writing, the additional acts that can change you from defender to attacker will be discussed. If you lose your innocence in the emotions of defending yourself, can you regain your innocence? The short answer is yes. That circumstance will be discussed too.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”

– Sun Tzu