Monday, March 9, 2009

Reluctant Participant, defined

In Minnesota, case law requires that you must be a reluctant participant in a self defense situation. You can't go out looking for a fight. Unfortunately, this concept is very misunderstood.

From a conversation here.

"Reluctant participant" doesn't mean you have to be dragged into the fight kicking and screaming. Defense of another means that the other can be reluctant for you. Reluctant participant is probably more accurately described as "did not provoke or escalate". The law [in Minnesota] specifically allows lethal force to be used in defense of another.

From Prof. Joe Olson:
Many on this board don't understand that "reluctant participant" is not the legal test, it's writer's shorthand (which even I've been known to use). So you tend to over emphasize that element.

What you can't be is an UNLAWFUL aggressor. Other states with more developed self-defense statutes make this clear [by using terms such as "did not provoke" the fight]. So does the case law.

Asserting your minor daughter's right to free from unwelcome physical contact is perfectly OK. Ordering them to stay away from your family is OK. Those are mere words. But, the father could have physically pushed her assailant away. Lawful use of force is not legal "provocation."

We tend to forget that "non-deadly reasonable force" can be used too. Minn. Stat. 606.06 says this:
Subdivision 1. When authorized. Except [by a criminal against a cop], reasonable force may be used upon or toward the person of another without the other's consent when the following circumstances exist or the actor reasonably believes them to exist:
(3) when used by any person in resisting or aiding another to resist an offense against the person; or ... .

The young thugs chose to respond with unlawful force. Then THEY escalated to deadly force (the multiple assailant attack on the man down).

After the multiple-assailant attack began, the father absolutely could have defended himself if he had anything with which to do so (such as a gun). A nearby permit holder, reasonably perceiving that the victim was facing an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm (as 7 or 8 young thugs kicked the shit out of him) would have been authorized to use protective force, including deadly force. According to the criminal charges, the victim suffered skull fractures and possible bleeding on the brain which ARE injuries capable of causing death or GBH.

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