Our society has evolved to the point of living vicariously in other people’s lives. We watch videos and news stories of incidents and then listen to the pundits on how this person should have done this or that.
If you have ever been involved in a critical incident, you will replay the circumstances over and over in your mind. You may second guess the actions you took or question if you had done something different which would have different the results. This is normal. What I would have been done might have been different or may have been the same steps you performed to win the fight.
This is the fifth and last element of a lawful use of force in self-defense. Your actions prior to, during the incident and after the incident will be placed under a microscope. The decisions and actions that you performed in seconds, fractions of a second will be scrutinized and those actions will be determined to be reasonable or unreasonable. If your actions are determined to be unreasonable, you most likely be subject to criminal liability.
Each of your actions and perceptions in each of the other four elements (innocence, imminence, proportionality, and avoidance) will be examined under the element of reasonableness.
The justice system applies a two-part test to see if you acted reasonably. It consists of objective reasonableness and subjective reasonableness.
Objective reasonableness is based on a hypothetical person used as a legal standard specifically to determine whether someone acted with negligence or criminality. This hypothetical person exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct that society requires of its members for the protection of their own and of others’ interests. The conduct of the reasonable man serves as a comparative standard for determining liability civilly or criminally.
Subjective reasonableness looks at whether you actually believed what you were doing was legitimate. Were you actually in fear for your life? Did you believe that the attack was going to happen then? Your actions will be evaluated through each of the elements on whether you acted because you truly believed threat was unprovoked, deadly and imminent. What did you do after the incident? Did you leave believing you would not be identified and be able to get away with it? Or did you leave because the scene was unsafe, there was a hostile crowd gathering and threatening you? Did you call 911 to report the attack right away or did you not call?
Now this reasonable and prudent person your actions will be judged against will be customized your attributes, circumstances, characteristics, and special knowledge you possess.
The circumstances of the incident will be considered. The weather, lighting, how did the conflict evolve. All of the relevant circumstances surrounding the incident will be examined and applied to what a reasonable and prudent person would do.
The characteristics of who you are will be applied to that reasonable and prudent person. Your physical condition, your age, any handicaps that limit your ability to effectively respond.
Your special knowledge before the incident through life experiences, training that led you to react the way you did will be considered. So, if you have had specialized training in the use of your firearms, non-lethal weapons that you had prior to the incident. Any special knowledge in the terms of training prior to the incident can be used to help you explain why you reacted the way you did.
What other special knowledge could explain your actions during the attack? What if you knew the attacker? You knew they were violent and that they have carried out threats in the past, or you are the victim of domestic abuse and the abusing person had regularly assaulted you and threatened you. This knowledge of their reputation or past acts of violence can be relevant to your self-defense claim.
What is not allowed in any contest for your freedom? Any knowledge that you learned after the incident.
It is highly recommended that you document any training that you have. If certificates of a course completion are issued, save them with their dates of completion.
I recommend Attorney Branca’s courses, online and on DVD regarding the Law of Self Defense. He has offerings on the topic of the Level 1 Advanced Course which covers the basic law of self-defense. You then are offered the opportunity to take an online final exam which will result in a course of completion certificate. The other course in the same formats, is the Level 1 State Supplement, which provides the specific laws for your particular state. Again, you can obtain a certificate for course completion can be obtained the same as with the Level 1 Advanced Course.
With the fifth and final element of reasonableness, your actions during an attack will be compared to what a reasonable and prudent person would do if they were faced with the same circumstances you were faced with during the attack. Your special knowledge prior to the incident can be used to explained what impacted your actions during the attack. Attorney Branca provides a detailed coherent explanation in his book “Law of Self Defense” and I recommend it and his other material for further study and knowledge that can be lifesaving if ever involved in a self-defense incident.
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”– Marcus Aurelius