Self defense – it’s brought up in high profile cases and featured in TV shows and movies. But what really constitutes “self defense?” And is it really that commonly used? This post will examine what self defense really is and the scenarios where self defense can, and cannot, be used.
The Law of Self Defense
Self Defense and the defense of others is codified in the Wisconsin Statutes. The term “self defense” is really a privilege – a privilege for you to threaten or intentionally use force against another person in order to prevent or terminate what you reasonably believe to be an unlawful interference with your body by the other person. However, you may only use enough force that you reasonably believe is necessary to prevent or terminate the interference. Further, you are not allowed to use force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless you believe you are also in danger of death or great bodily harm. The “castle doctrine” is an exception to this rule and Attorney Meyer covered this topic extensively in this post. The privilege of self defense extends to your defense of a 3rd person as well, provided that the above criteria is met.
In most cases, self defense will not apply if you have engaged in unlawful conduct likely to provoke others to attack you and they do attack you. In a very limited sense, you are allowed to still claim the privilege if you believe you are in imminent danger of death or bodily harm. However, you cannot resort to force intended or likely to cause death unless you believe you have exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm yourself. You should not provoke an attack with the intent to use that attack as an excuse to cause death or great bodily harm to the other person because you won’t be entitled to the privilege of self defense. Finally, the privilege lost by your own provocation can be regained if you withdraw from the fight and give the other person notice of your withdrawal.
Defense of Property
You are also entitled to threaten or intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what you reasonably believe to be an unlawful interference with your property. As is true with defending yourself, you can only use such force or threaten such force that you reasonable believe is necessary to prevent or terminate the interference. The major difference between defense of property and defense of harm to yourself is that you are NOT allowed to use force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm for the sole purpose of defense of your property.
You can read the statute and try to decipher its meaning, but here are few common examples where self defense can, and cannot, be used. Note that these examples are merely illustrative and every case will have additional facts that may create the privilege or take it away.
#1 – you are at a bar and another patron thinks you are hitting on his girlfriend. He starts shoving you numerous times in the chest, eventually backing you into a corner. You feel very afraid because he is twice your size, so you punch him once in the face. In this scenario, you reasonably felt that you were in danger and you used enough force to end the “interference.”
#2 – you are leaving work and as you approach your car, you see someone break the window and jump in the driver’s seat. The person does not see you and starts to drive your car away. You pull out your gun and shoot at the individual. In this scenario, it is likely that self defense would not apply because you resorted to force likely to cause death or great bodily harm. However, you yourself was never in danger; rather, only your property was being interfered with. Therefore, you are not privileged to resort to deadly force.
Contact Us Today
If you find yourself in a situation where you think self defense should apply to you but you are still charged with a crime, contact Attorney Van Severen or Attorney Meyer immediately. The attorneys at Meyer Van Severen, S.C. have experience handling self defense cases and know how to convince a jury that your actions were justified. Contact us today!