If faced with a self-defense incident, should you runaway if you can do so safely? The emphatic answer is “YES!” The fourth element in the lawful use of force in a self-defense incident is avoidance. Attorney Andrew Branca in his book “The Law of Self Defense” eloquently observes that the best fight is the one you avoid. Branca further elaborates correctly that any fight you are in whether you are in the right or the wrong is that the probability of being hurt or killed is not “zero.” Even if you win the fight, you can still be seriously injured or killed. So, staying to fight should be your last choice. There can be circumstances in which you will have no choice. Then you do what you have to do.
Many states have what is called a “Duty to Retreat.” This means that retreat is necessary if you can do so safely rather than use force. In about a dozen states your retreat is required before using deadly force. You are not required to retreat, if running away would make it more dangerous.
You may ask, “What about in my home?” You do not have to retreat while in your home. This is known as the “Castle Doctrine.” Now what is considered your “Castle” has different definitions in many states. Your castle may include the around your house that is part of your day-to-day business. Other states may define it as just within the four walls of the structure. Some states have extended it to your vehicle/s while you are in it. Your place of business can also be defined under the “Castle Doctrine.” There are also exceptions to this doctrine; where you have lost the right to be in the home.
It is imperative that you learn what your locale defines as your castle and the requirements when retreat from a fight is expected.
Three dozen states have enacted what the news media likes to call “Stand Your Ground.” The term has been politicized and its true purpose has been distorted. The purpose of the laws removes the requirement of a person to retreat when it is safe to do so.
An innocent person who is in a place or location legally, are allowed to defend themselves, subject only to the other four elements of a lawful self-defense use of force. These laws remove the “duty to retreat.”
What does these laws help protect you from? It limits the power of overreaching prosecutors. If you had paid any attention to the prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin; you saw a prosecutor bent on a guilty verdict anyway he could obtain it, even though there was overwhelming video tape evidence that he was chased down and knocked to the ground by multiple assailants. This does not prohibit a prosecutor from using your failure to retreat in an incident as being unreasonable. There are some states that have prohibited the mention of retreat at all in front of the jury. These are the “Hard Stand Your Ground States.”
Avoiding a fight is taking advantage of a safe avenue of escape before resorting to the use of force. Some states impose a duty to retreat before a use of any force.
The requirement to avoid or retreat are removed or lessened in states that enacted laws where you have no duty to retreat if you are in a building or location legally. These are called, “Stand Your Ground” laws. These laws remove the element of avoidance in an attack even if you do have a safe avenue of retreat.
If you are in your house or place of business, the duty of retreat is not required. This is known as the “Castle Doctrine.” Some states define the boundaries as within the four walls of the house, some extend it to the curtilage. Some states have even included vehicles that you occupy.
To learn more about the element of avoidance, and its nuances, you can find Attorney Branca’s book here: “The Law of Self Defense.”
The best fight is the one you can avoid.
All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”– Lewis (Chesty) Puller