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Analysis: Is it lawful self-defense to “run down” rioters surrounding your vehicle?

Analysis: Is it lawful self-defense to “run down” rioters surrounding your vehicle?

Everything changes once there are direct threats or actual force against those they have blockaded.

The details on the Charlotte riots and attacks on motorists trapped on the highway and others are in our earlier post.

Instapundit (law professor Glenn Reynolds) was suspended from Twitter (then later reinstated) after posting the following tweet as those riots and highway blockades were ongoing:

Instapundit Tweet Charlotte Riots

Professor Jacobson has asked me to address whether such an act would be lawful as a justified act of self-defense.  I’m on a flight now using airplane WiFi, so I’ll make this quick. (Before I go on, however, I should point out that Professor Reynolds has added some important context to his pithy tweet, and these later comments can be found at the link above.)

In short, one would apply the usual five elements of a self-defense justification to evaluate such a use of force against others, just as in any other instance of self-defense.  Those elements are, of course:  innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance, and reasonableness.

When all required elements are present, the use of force was legally justified. If any required element is missing, whatever that use of force might have been it was not lawful self-defense.

One of the challenges to legally justifying the use of force against highway blockades is the element of imminence. Do people who are merely blocking a roadway represent an imminent threat against which some defensive force might be justified?  .

A second challenge is the element of proportionality.  That is, if the force contemplated to be used against them is one’s vehicle, this will almost always constitute deadly force–that is, force capable of causing death or grave bodily injury.   Deadly force can be used in self-defense only the force with which you are threatened also constitutes deadly force.

Unfortunately, persons merely blockading a highway do not inherently represent an imminent deadly force threat–simply blocking a roadway cannot normally cause death or grave bodily harm to those injured.  As a result, using one’s vehicle to “run them down,” or even to physically push them aside, is unlikely to be legally justified unless there is some additional threatening conduct.

It is also worth noting that if you respond to even a legitimate threat that is non-deadly in nature with a deadly force response, it’s quite possible that you will be deemed the deadly force aggressor, even if the other party was the non-deadly force aggressor.  In that case the other party could well be legally justified in using deadly defensive force against your deadly force aggression.

Chilling, right?

Note, however, that so far we’ve limited the discussion to using force against people who are merely blocking a roadway.  Things change dramatically if they exceed that limited conduct and being to actually direct threats or actual force against those they have blockaded.

Once a person being blockaded has been placed in reasonable fear of an imminent deadly force attack, then that person would be legally entitled to use deadly force in self-defense, including the use of their vehicle to “run them down” and neutralize the unlawful deadly force threat.

The question then is what would be required to generate a fear of imminent deadly force that would be deemed reasonable by police, prosecutors, judges, and juries.

Certainly if the protestors attempt, or reasonably appear to attempt, to forcibly enter the blockaded vehicles, this would constitute reasonable grounds to fear an imminent deadly force attack.  Such conduct would include the smashing of windows or attempts to force open doors.  The same applies to attempts to set vehicles on fire, or to flip vehicles over.

Note that a defender need not necessarily wait until the protestors have turned violent against his particular vehicle.  If they have begun threatening or using deadly force against other blockaded vehicles it is reasonable to infer that your own vehicle is likely to be next — you are, after all, legally entitled to defend yourself not just against the danger already occurring to you but also against the danger that is about to occur, that is imminent.

I caution, however, that you can’t just speculate that some danger about to occur, you must be making a reasonable inference from actual evidence (e.g., observations) around you.  “For all I knew they were about to start setting cars on fire,” is not enough, that’s mere speculation.  “I saw someone approach with a Molotov cocktail,” or “I saw other vehicles ablaze” is, in contrast, evidence from which one can reasonably infer an imminent threat.

As a parting thought, there is nothing to prevent a legislature from defining the disorderly blockading of a public way as an act against which deadly defensive force can be used, such as by creating a legal presumption under such circumstances of a reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm.  The large majority of states have already created such legal presumptions justifying the use of deadly defensive force in other contexts — particularly in the context of an intruder in the home.

I’ll leave moral concerns about such an approach to the moralists, but legally there is no barrier to such a law, and a solid argument could be made that it constitutes good public policy.   After all, protestors would still be free to lawfully exercise their First Amendment rights, and it would foster public order and safety.

Perhaps it is time to write your legislators, or start a ballot initiative or referendum?

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

UPDATE:  Professor Jacobson has kindly permitted me to share a couple of practical/tactical oriented links with respect to managing oneself in the kinds of scenarios described above.  Both of these sources are leaders in this area.  Nobody else can tell you what you should do in a particular set of circumstances, and it’s not possible for me to provide a “legal seal of approval” given vagaries in jurisdiction and such, but you’d be wise to take what these gentlemen have to say under advisement:

Greg Ellifritz:  “Surviving Mob Attacks on Your Vehicle”

Active Self Protection: “Using a Car to Escape a Mob”

Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
“Law of Self Defense, 3rd Ed.” /Seminars / Instructor Program / Twitter /Facebook / Youtube


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here in #Failifornia, they will like as not pass a law *encouraging^ mobs to block traffic and harm drivers…

for “justice”, of course.

Better have dashcam footage of the “imminent” threat, else they will claim they were helping an old lady cross the street.

I was involved in an altercation involving an imminent threat this summer. When the cops arrived the aggressor and his posse claimed he was jumped for no reason at all. His story fell apart pretty quick since he was on someone else’s property with the intent to confront someone. Instead of calling 911 on the aggressor I wish I had been filming him.

    dunce1239 in reply to Andy. | September 22, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Most people in Russia have dash cams to prove the other driver was at fault in accidents but they could also provide evidence to a prosecutor or a jury in riot situations that seem to be regular events these days.

      Many people in the US have them too.

      Bicyclists have used them for a long time because, well, there are a lot of crazy people out there.

        davod in reply to RodFC. | September 22, 2016 at 5:45 pm

        When I first arrived in the USA in the 80s, I was working in Washington DC. Within the first three weeks of working there two cycle messengers rode into my car. One against the lights and the other the wrong way down a one way street.

        The witnesses were quite prepared to say it was my mistake.

“Running down” is kind of an operative term here.

Refusing to stop may be more apt. If you’re confronted by a mob of people who are showing violence, that’s different than being stopped by a single line of people blocking your progress with their arms linked.

If a bunch of people come at me from ANY direction on a highway or street, I’m moving forward (or reverse) at a brisk clip, horn blaring, lights flashing, and gun out. Not so fast that nobody would be unable to get out of my path (until that is shown necessary, which it COULD be).

I don’t have to KNOW their intentions, as Andrew has often written. Just have a reasonable apprehension of death or serious bodily injury.

    Is there a legal difference? Common sense says yes, but the law doesn’t necessarily say the same.

      Ragspierre in reply to M.K.. | September 22, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      To a trial lawyer…???

      HELL, yeah…!!! But I also take your point.

      HOWEVER, it makes a difference in how YOU see it, as well. I’m refusing to stop, and have no intention of “running anyone down”.

      Well, unless they’re pointing a gun at me, or raring back to thrown a brick at my car. THEN I am running them down.


    My gun will be in the holster until it’s time to shoot, because I learn from other people’s mistakes.

    “The initial collision that forced the suspects off the road caused some unforeseen problems for the agents, as the FBI vehicles sustained damage from the heavier, older car driven by Matix. Just prior to ramming the Monte Carlo, Manauzzi had pulled out his service revolver and placed it on the seat in anticipation of a shootout, but the force of the collision flung open his door and sent his weapon flying.”

Great write up putting this into proper perspective of a self defense situation. I’ve got some people I’ll be pointing this way who think self defense issues are only in regards to using a gun. It’s irrespective of the weapon used and you illustrate this nice and succinctly in this post.

    The law is clearly described. Unfortunately, so much depends upon where the incident takes place.

    In certain parts of the Northeast, you will be treated harshly no matter what the actual facts were. No bail, thrown in jail with true criminals, family harassed by criminals encouraged by politicians, judges trying to show how “liberal” they are.

    And if you get killed, the MSM will describe the peaceful protesters and ignore the fact that someone was murdered. Maybe one or two of them may get charged with breach of the peace.

    I wish this wasn’t the case, but this is where we are right now.

Let’s say that all the above conditions are met. In this case, is there a legal difference between 1) flooring it and not giving the anybody in front of the car time to get out of the way or 2) moving forward at a moderate speed, giving people willing to move out of the way time to do so but running over anyone who doesn’t.

I have no idea if 1 is legal but 2 isn’t, 2 is legal but 1 isn’t, or both are legal.

    Ragspierre in reply to M.K.. | September 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Well, like LOTS of things in the law…it depends.

    In the first instance, you’d best have a REAL sound reason for your actions, because your conduct is MORE deadly/injurious.

    In the second, less so on both counts. Does that make sense?

    Put another way, you don’t have to be going 70mph to clear a threatening mob…unless you DO.

    Driving a steady 30mph while giving all the warning possible is a LOT safer for you LEGALLY. But don’t get killed over it.

      I’m assuming that the car is starting from being stationary, surrounded by attackers, and the situation has just reached the point where self defense (and in the case of being stuck in a car escape and violent self defense are the same) is needed.

      Here’s my thoughts about why the situation might not be so clear-cut and why the first option might be the best:
      If the car starts slowly, providing the attackers enough time to get out of the way, then it might mean that the danger is not imminent.
      It seems much more deliberate to drive over someone at 5 mph, rather than unavoidably striking them at 25 mph.

      Anyway, your are probably right.

        Ragspierre in reply to M.K.. | September 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        Part of my point is that…in the law…there is no clear-cut “right or wrong”. “It depends”.

        I personally would not maintain 5mph in a mob. For damn sure. IF someone is catching up with my escaping little grey self, they are sprinting! And they’d best have the best pair of looted sneakers on they could rip out of the hands of their co-felons! As the mob thins, MY speed increases.

Thank you, Andrew, for this post.
I have been waiting for it, and I’m sure I was not the only one.

First of all, INAL so it’s ask Andrew time.

Here’s my question about this: Let’s say you’re in the first car being blocked, and you blow your car’s horn continuously, and the protesters then physically attack your car because they don’t like what you’re doing, and you in fear for your safety drive through the crowd, hitting someone with your car. Would your actions be seen as justified, or would they be seen as provoking the protesters by blowing your horn?

    rinardman in reply to rinardman. | September 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Oh, BTW, the reason I ask is because that is what I think I’d do if placed in that situation.

    I’d wear out my horn, just to make their protest a little less tolerable.

    Ragspierre in reply to rinardman. | September 22, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Not to get in Andrew’s way, but you’re asking a jury argument question.

    If some prosecutor decided to try you for one of the family of violent felonies, they’re going to paint you in the worst possible light. It’s what they do as advocates for their position. It’s their job. You were an arrogant SOB who put yourself in harm’s way by taking a route through an area of “civil unrest”, and provoked your assailants beyond endurance. You were looking for trouble.

    As your defense, you are a frightened innocent, giving all the warning you possibly can to a ravenous mob, intent on your death and destruction.

Great explanation!

And here is my question(s) for all of you who are knowledgeable.

What recourse or protection do we, law abiding citizens, have against being trapped by a mob of punks in a place where we don’t want to be?
Once they block a highway, there’s no turning back, and there’s no going forward without running the punks over.
They have no right. What do we do?
Let’s say you have children in the car. (They would be scared, wouldn’t they?)
Or let’s say, you’re going to the doctor.
What can we do?

    Ragspierre in reply to Exiliado. | September 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Well, let’s use some analogies…

    The single line of non-aggressive “protesters” with their arms linked blocks your travel.

    Kid scared? Could be. So what? Sick kid? How bad? Life or death (or really serious long-term effects…not the flu)? Sort of answers itself. Dunnit?

    A mass of people blocks your way, aggressively moving toward your vehicle, waving fists and torches. Easy-peasy in my book.

      I think you (as the driver) will be screwed either way.

      It’s unlikely you’ll face the “either/or” clean-cut situation you just outlined. Far more likely is what we are seeing on the TV during these “protests”; a bunch of relatively quiet protesters (these will be the people blocking your way in the street, and a handful of thugs damaging property and attacking people, and darting in and out of the crowd of protesters to do so.

      When the thug walks up alongside your car and breaks the window, HE won’t be the one standing in front of the vehicle when you stomp the pedal to the floor; it’ll be the crowd of relatively quiet protesters, yakking on their phones or taking videos, and not paying attention to the car heading their way. THOSE are the people you will run over, not the thugs who you are trying to get away from, and who you would be authorized to use deadly force on.

      You may still be alive, but you’ll be screwed, both criminally and civilly. Best to do your very best to avoid these areas.

        DaveGinOly in reply to DJ9. | September 23, 2016 at 12:07 am

        Exactly the scenario I was going to propose. You also can’t tell if the “non-violent” protesters blocking your car aren’t actually doing so to purposefully set you up for an attack by others. They seem relatively non-threatening and appear to be “innocent bystanders” you might be tempted to hit while making your escape, and after the incident they can paint themselves as victims of your attempt to escape others who were presenting a serious threat.

        I’d say it’s the guy who comes up to your car’s window who should be shot in the face. Make it personal. Everyone else, however, would likely get out of your way after that. Or they could turn on you en masse, in which case you’d probably be justified in running the lot of them down.

        Estragon in reply to DJ9. | September 23, 2016 at 6:13 am

        Yes, not a good situation.

        But still better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.

Solid analysis. It reminds me of those “trespassers will be shot” signs. You have the right to put up the sign – first amendment – but no, you don’t have the automatic right to shoot trespassers unless you can demonstrate that the circumstances made it necessary to protect yourself or your loved ones, and that’s true even in a “stand your ground” state.

Still though, I don’t think that Glenn was advocating a general principle but just commenting on the specific situation in Charlotte. If the news reports we read were accurate about protesters looting, setting fires, throwing bricks, etc, then the advice seems pretty reasonable.

    audax in reply to tyates. | September 23, 2016 at 3:06 am

    My Dad had these signs on our farm after one of our cows was shot. “Trespassers will be shot: Survivors will be shot again”

I remember a short story I read when I was a youth. The “hero” is lost in the arctic and delays building a fire for himself until he gets so cold he cannot build the fire and dies.

Here goes my question. What if you are in a crowd like this. Traffic is getting blocked and the crowd is not violent but on the verge of getting violent.

So it reasonable to say that the danger is not imminent but that if you delay defending yourself until the danger is actually imminent you like the fire builder will lose your change to defend yourself.

Could you not argue that there is an imminent danger that you lose the ability to defend yourself, and that gives you the right to defend yourself?

    Lanceman in reply to RodFC. | September 22, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    ‘To Build a Fire’ .

    Short story by Jack London

      In that London story the guy actually is successful in building his fire. Unfortunately, he builds it under a snow-laden tree, the heat of the fire loosens the snow, which collapses on him and puts out his fire. Game over, dude. Game. Over.


        Ragspierre in reply to Andrew Branca. | September 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm

        “Location, location, location…”

        How many Yiddish Arctic trappers ever had that befall them…???

        tom swift in reply to Andrew Branca. | September 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

        That’s the 1908 version.

        In London’s 1902 version of the same title, the fellow survives.

        When somebody looks the story up and is puzzled why it doesn’t seem to go quite the way he remembers it, that’s why.

The law in most if not all jurisdictions is deadly force may be used to repel not just deadly force but also force that could cause serious bodily injury.

If a crowd surrounds your car preventing both forward and backward movement doesn’t that make you a kidnapping victim?

What about this fact pattern: criminals kidnap teenage girl and take her to an unknown location and lock her in a room. She is told that no harm will come to her as long as daddy pays ransom the following day. Therefore there is no threat of imminent serious bodily injury.

Question: Can the kidnapped girl legally use deadly force to escape captivity on day 1 or does she have to wait until daddy doesn’t pay on day 2 and kidnappers are getting their guns out before she can use deadly force to escape?

Now, if one is kidnapped by being imprisoned in their own vehicle by a mob surrounding their car, can they use deadly force to escape captivity?

Or asked a different way is there a general right of a kidnap victim to use deadly force to escape captivity?

Interesting side note. There are pictures and video of a white guy slowly driving hus car through group of black protesters who get out of his way and let him pass last night. Of course the driver had a semi auto pistol in his left hand with his left arm hanging out drivers side window. Amazing how that made such a difference.

    Ragspierre in reply to jsteinly. | September 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Kidnapping or false imprisonment are things.

    Look them up.

    You aren’t “kidnapped” or “falsely imprisoned” in gridlocked traffic.

      jsteinly in reply to Ragspierre. | September 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Well it is a good thing my post has absolutely nothing to do with gridlock then.

      A person who uses force or the threat of force to keep another confined in a limited space against their will is a kidnapper. There are many persons who have been charged with kidnapping in such circumstances. You should look it up.

        Ragspierre in reply to jsteinly. | September 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm

        Cite to a statute. C’mon. Step up.

          Observer in reply to Ragspierre. | September 22, 2016 at 8:57 pm

          § 14-39. Kidnapping.
          (a) Any person who shall unlawfully confine, restrain, or remove from one place to another, any other person 16 years of age or over without the consent of such person, or any other person under the age of 16 years without the consent of a parent or legal custodian of such person, shall be guilty of kidnapping if such confinement, restraint or removal is for the purpose
          (1) Holding such other person for a ransom or as a hostage or using such other person as a shield; or
          (2) Facilitating the commission of any felony or facilitating flight of any person following the commission of a felony; or
          (3) Doing serious bodily harm to or terrorizing the person so confined, restrained or removed or any other person; or
          (4) Holding such other person in involuntary servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.12.
          (5) Trafficking another person with the intent that the other person be held in involuntary servitude or sexual servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.11.
          (6) Subjecting or maintaining such other person for sexual servitude in violation of G.S. 14-43.13.

          The rioters in Charlotte were unlawfully restraining the motorists for the purpose of terrorizing them, so it appears they could be charged with kidnapping under North Carolina law.

          If you’re free to get out of the car and walk away you have NOT been “kidnapped.”


          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | September 22, 2016 at 10:38 pm

          Yeah. There are several states with a statute like that one.

          Cite one case that has been sustained on appeal.

          I can cite several rape cases where it has NOT been, though the rapist certainly “held” their victim against their will.

          DaveGinOly in reply to Ragspierre. | September 23, 2016 at 12:39 am

          I can’t respond to Andrew’s comment directly, so I’ll reply to Rags’ post.

          The proposed scenario was one in which a person is trapped in the car. The statute uses the terms “confine” and “restrain.” If you cannot escape from your car, you have been confined. If those blocking your vehicle are attempting to prevent you from moving away, you are being restrained. Sounds a lot like the defined “kidnapping” to me.

          Now, let’s imagine the victim can exit the vehicle. The law would require the target of unlawful lethal force to remove himself from the relative safety of his vehicle and expose himself to the dangers outside rather than using his vehicle as a weapon?(What about in SYG states?) What, if in the estimation of the person trapped, that would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

          If two gremlins attempt an armed robbery and one is killed in the attempt, the surviving gremlin is charged with murder on the principle that the initiator of the unlawful force is responsible for any deaths that result from the act(s) he initiated. If a person trapped in the midst of a violent mob is threatened with deadly force and is given the choice to hit (and possibly injure or kill) “innocent” persons (who are themselves likely to be involved in criminal conduct, even if not directed at the victim) can the law require that victim to surrender his own life in order to preserve the lives of others? I would say no, because on the principle cited above any “collateral damage” would be the responsibility of the attacker(s) who put the innocent person into the situation in which the decision had to be made. Absent an initiator of the unlawful threat of lethal force, there would be no victim making an escape attempt and no collateral damage.

          “Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn never.”

          jsteinly in reply to Ragspierre. | September 23, 2016 at 1:55 am

          @Andrew: I don’t know how one would possibly know they could exit their vehicle and not be attacked by the mob, but assuming that somehow was possible wouldn’t that just change the situation from a kidnapping to a car jacking. And don’t most jurisdictions allow use of deadly force to prevent a car jacking?

          “If you’re free to get out of the car and walk away you have NOT been “kidnapped.””

          Andrew, there’s no doubt I can get out of the car and start walking. My odds of reaching safety before getting curb stomped because I’m white are zero.

does blocking an interstate (federal felony due to commerce clause iirc) make a difference over blocking a state/town road?

The North Carolina “Castle Doctrine” states that the lawful occupant of a home, motor vehicle or workplace is not required to retreat prior to using deadly force. The law presumes a person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter one of these locations intends to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence. They way I read that, if they put a hand on your vehicle you can kill ’em.

    And THAT’S why I ride around on a very nice German motorcycle.


    Ragspierre in reply to snopercod. | September 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    Totally wrong. You go to a car-wash and the guys there put hands on your vehicle. You have NO right to harm them.

    A fireman or good Sameritan rushes to your wreaked car and attempts to force open the door or breaks a window, you have no right to harm them.

    Someone in an unruly protest…or a drunken bunch of college kids…bangs on your hood in passing. You have NO right to harm them.

    Jeeeebus. This isn’t hard…!!!

      BrokeGopher in reply to Ragspierre. | September 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

      Maybe you missed the word “unlawfully” sprinkled throughout that post. The car wash guy doesn’t unlawfully enter your car. Read more carefully next time.

      snopercod in reply to Ragspierre. | September 22, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Rags, you’re such an ass. We’re talking about a riot situation here, not a carwash.

      Rags, remind me NOT to hire you as a lawyer. In your first two examples, I have invited someone to put hands on my car as a commercial transaction, or they are agents of the state to whom I have given that permission by accepting the privilege of driving on the highway.

        Ragspierre in reply to SDN. | September 23, 2016 at 10:24 am

        Cool with me! You shoot someone in a crowd playing “Big Noise From Winnetka” on the trunk of your car, and you’re beyond my help (though I don’t practice criminal law).

        Go for it, on the advice of some boob on a blog thread…!!!

        “If they touch your car, kill ’em”.

When we had the protests in Baton Rouge a few months ago I was waiting for them to block the interstate and watch the good ole boy rednecks run them down. I know they would.

    DJ9 in reply to Roux. | September 23, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Heck, some of the businesses in certain places would run a well-advertised “Tire Sale” specializing in large truck tires that wouldn’t get clogged-up with protester chunks.

While not the same, last year a Mariana, AZ intentionally struck an armed subject with his vehicle. In case you were wondering what it looks like…

Officer’s “non-typical” use of force was later found to be justified.

Is it legal for a mob to restrict, control, or influence innocents with a blockade?

It seems that mass coercion with a precedent of mortal threat would merit the response of the National Guard.

    Ragspierre in reply to n.n. | September 22, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Completely different question.

    Assume, arguendo, that there is an illegally gathered mob/protest/what-the-fluck-ever blocking your route to your favorite lunch haunt.

    Would you, personally, be justified in using deadly force?

      DaveGinOly in reply to Ragspierre. | September 23, 2016 at 12:59 am

      The law doesn’t punish acts that are merely “ill-advised.”

      If trouble starts because someone exercising his right to travel on the public roads insists on doing so when people are illegally blocking the roads, as a juror, I’d put the blame for anything that happens on the people who unlawfully created the situation. Damn how a prosecutor might twist the situation. (“He didn’t need to drive down that road at that moment.” We have a Bill of Rights, not a bill of needs. Anyone who gets in the way, literally or figuratively, of an American exercising his rights is automatically on the wrong side of the law.)

        Ragspierre in reply to DaveGinOly. | September 23, 2016 at 10:27 am

        Two things…

        1. you’d never serve on a jury hearing such a case, and

        2. you’d go to prison very rightfully for using deadly force in the circumstance.

Suppose you see this while driving out of the parking garage downtown. Would running them down be considered defensive?

Or how about you see them trying to toss an unconscious photographer into a fire. Run them down?

    Ragspierre in reply to 4fun. | September 22, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    How ’bout you answer your own questions?

    As to the first, no. It isn’t “defensive”. It IS justifiable.

    Same as the second. You are acting in defense of another in a clear instance of serious bodily injury or death.

Brush guard or bull bar?

In time of civil insurrection, as in times of war, what constitutes LEGAL actions becomes vague. And, all states are slightly different as to what constitutes a legal use of deadly force and what does not.

In the case of the state of Florida, it is legal to use deadly force to prevent the commission of a violent felony, if such force is necessary. So, if one is surrounded by a group of people, who are essentially holding him at a location against his will through threats of violence, could this be considered kidnapping or false imprisonment, both of which are considered to be violent felonies? If so, then a case can be made that using a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon would be justified. The same would hold true if another weapon, such as a firearm, was used. Also one has to factor in the disparity of force argument. One person blocking your way, while making threats of violence, presents little disparity of force. A score, or even hundreds, of people doing the same thing present an enormous disparity of force. At this point, any active threat can provide a good justification for using deadly force, as death or great bodily harm is likely to occur if the mob attacks you. Also, if a person chooses to attack you, while facing a deadly weapon deployed in a defensive manner, this can be argued to be prima facia evidence that the attacker can be reasonably believed to be intending to cause death or great bodily harm to your person.

The kicker here is the conditions obtaining at the time. During a riot or other incident of civil unrest, to not assume that you will be aggressively attacked, by an angry mob, and likely to suffer death or great bodily harm is not a positive survival characteristic. It might be a better idea to take your chances in a court of law than in the midst of a group of angry, violent people willfully violating the laws of the society in which they reside.

Now if an avenue of escape exists, and you refuse to take it, your justification for using force declines. This has to be factored into the equation as well. So, while I do not suggest that people SHOULD use deadly force or a deadly weapon when being surrounded by a violent mob, it should not be ruled out.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Mac45. | September 23, 2016 at 1:09 am

    “At this point, any active threat can provide a good justification for using deadly force, as death or great bodily harm is likely to occur if the mob attacks you.”

    As redC1C4 said above, “Reginald Denny.”

    “Now if an avenue of escape exists, and you refuse to take it, your justification for using force declines. This has to be factored into the equation as well.”

    Probably not in a SYG state. Automobiles and firearms are both just tools that can be used for self-defense. If you’re justified using one to protect yourself, you’re similarly justified using the other. In an SYG state the only question would be “Were you justified in using lethal force?” If the answer is “Yes,” then the tool you employed is irrelevant.

My understanding is that one cannot kill an innocent to save one’s own life (as in bad guy orders D, at gunpoint, to kill V). So if D is being blocked from escape by peaceful protesters, and bad guy starts smashing the driver side window with a crow bar, is D guilty if he runs down the innocents to escape death or GBH? Are they innocent for the purpose of this rule?

    Mac45 in reply to Michael. | September 22, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Are the demonstrators, who are detaining you, innocent? They may not be active participants in a physical attack on your person, but if they are willing participants in the act of illegally detaining you, then it could be argued that they were principles in the crime of kidnapping or false imprisonment. Remember, these “peaceful protestors” are still breaking numerous laws by their actions. Every situation is different and has to be judged upon its own merits. There is no “one size fits all” with regard to mob actions.

    That’s not correct. What you’re thinking of is the legal defense of compulsion–in some jurisdictions you can’t use the legal defense of compulsion to argue that you killed another person because otherwise some bad guy would have killed you. Otherwise it would be a defense for every mob hit man.

    You certainly CAN kill an innocent person if necessary to save your own life, however. Technically we’re now talking about an excuse defense as opposed to a justification defense.

    Imagine that some innocent person had been paid $100 to press a red button. Unknown to them, pressing that red button would detonate a bomb strapped to your chest. You have access to a firearm, and have the means to shoot that person dead to prevent them from pressing the red button and killing you. The act of doing so would arguably be excusable under the law. (Distinguished from a justification defense because the person had no actual malice.)

    The situation is very similar to that of using deadly force against killers who are clinically insane. Because of their insanity they are not personally responsible for what they do (thus not a justification to kill them) but nevertheless it is a social good to stop them (thus killing them to prevent harm to innocents is legally excusable).


      Indeed, this is why abortion is justified when the baby is endangering the mother’s life, and the only way to save her is to kill the baby. The baby is certainly not intentionally killing the mother, but it is killing her nonetheless.

      In the compulsion case the threat is not coming from the victim; the victim is not doing anything to the person, whether intentionally or not. Therefore it’s merely a matter of which of the two shall die, and “Who told you that your blood is redder than his?”

When the riots started in L.A. as part of the Rodney King incident, I drove down Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood. Mobs were blocking the street, forcing cars to stop, and the mob would allow one car to proceed at a time at the mob’s whim. Someone jumped on my car, and I refused to stop for him or for the people standing in the street in front of me. They seemed to think that I was going to stop, but that was not part of my plan.

I did not “mow ’em down.” I simply drove forward at about 5 mph, refusing to stop, pushing them with the car. In my mind, as I viewed it at the time, I was not using deadly force in self-defense; I was escaping an illegal false imprisonment by people with no claim of legal authority to arrest me. I did have a handgun relatively visible at the time.

“Mowing ’em down” would involve significant front-end damage to my car. Not stopping, on the other hand, did not entail any damage to me, my car or the jerks blocking the road who did not seem to understand that a 3,800 pound vehicle is a lot less vulnerable than a 180 pound sack of skin, bones, fat, etc.

The Friendly Grizzly | September 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm

I am saddened reading all of the above “what if” situations. How much danger am I in, and will others see it that way?
Did that guy smashing my windshield or the crowd rocking my vehicle to tip it over really intend to hurt me?

That these and the other what-if situations described above even need to be considered, then the nation has lost all common sense.

What if I feel I am in imminent danger of extreme harm and do what instinct tells one to do: survive? Hit the accelerator and get out of there by whatever means I can? Does the rest of my life REALLY hinge on how the DA is feeling the next morning? Or, if it’s an election year and the DA needs the minority vote? (My family already went through that form of “justice” in 1968, so I am quite gun-shy about all of this.)

What happens when I get to trial? My entire life hangs on two things: how good a lawyer I can afford (and in fact I can’t afford ANY lawyer, much less one from a walnut-paneled firm of Armani and Rolex-wearing JDs).

Second, how does the jury see me?

You can down-tick me if you want, but here goes: we have greatest justice system in the world if you can afford it. I can’t.

    Isn’t it a shame that Americans have to factor in grandstanding prosecutors (and other unpleasant post-survival threats) in the fractions of a second available to them for the calculus necessary to save their lives in a lethal force situation?

    As a juror, I would never condemn a person for making the wrong decision when put into such a situation by someone else. If someone must be responsible for a death, let it be the person who ended up dead by the misadventure caused by his own acts.

    Self-defense on the street (as opposed to the courtroom) is not a game with rules, and has but one objective – survival. A person who unlawfully attacks another, in my mind, is solely responsible for the outcome of the encounter. If the defender wrongly believed the threat to be lethal, I’m not going to say he should have waited until it became lethal, because any delay in the realization could result in the death of the innocent party. The person responsible for the error in judgment is the person who created the situation in which the judgment became necessary. That person gambles that his victim’s judgment will be sound. Sometimes that’s a bad bet. The victim doesn’t place that bet, the attacker does. A gambler is responsible for his debts.

Do people who are peaceably (although illegally) blocking the road become accomplices to acts of criminal violence against the motoring public because they are responsible for (illegally) creating and maintaining a situation in which the perpetrators are able to operate? Do they have any culpability for attacks that occur as a result of their illegal acts?

One problem with these mob situations is evidence preservation. Let’s say you are in imminent danger of being attacked by somebody with a weapon. You stop them by shooting them or running them over with your car. Any bets on whether the rest of the mob accidentally, or even deliberately, makes that weapon disappear?

You must also weigh the potential for retaliation by the mob. Taking one guy out could require you to do the same to dozens more.

This scenario was predicted back in 2012. Interesting read:

“They will concentrate on major intersections and highway interchanges where non-MUY suburban commuters must make daily passage to and from what forms of employment still exist. People making a living will still be using those roads to get to where they earn their daily bread.

The results of these clashes will frequently resemble the intersection of Florence and Normandie during the Rodney King riots in 1992, where Reginald Denny was pulled out of his truck’s cab and beaten nearly to death with a cinder block. If you don’t remember it, watch it on Youtube. Then imagine that scene with the mob-making accelerant of texting and other social media technology added to stoke the fires. Instead of a few dozen thugs terrorizing the ambushed intersections, in minutes there will be hundreds.

Rioters will throw debris such as shopping carts and trash cans into the intersection, causing the more timid drivers to pause. The mobs will swarm the lines of trapped cars once they have stopped. Traffic will be forced into gridlock for blocks in all directions. Drivers and passengers of the wrong ethnic persuasions will be pulled from their vehicles to be beaten, robbed, and in some cases raped and/or killed. It will be hyper-violent and overtly racial mob behavior, on a massive and undeniable basis.

Some of those trapped in their cars will try to drive out of the area, inevitably knocking down MUY pedestrians and being trapped by even more outraged MUYs. The commuters will be dragged out of their cars and kicked or beaten to death. Other suburban commuters will try to shoot their way out of the lines of stopped cars, and they will meet the same grim fate once they run out of bullets and room to escape.

The mob will be armed with everything from knives, clubs and pistols to AK-47s. A bloodbath will result. These unlucky drivers and their passengers will suffer horribly, and some of their deaths will be captured on traffic web cameras. Later, these terrible scenes will be released or leaked by sympathetic government insiders and shown by the alternative media, which continue to expand as the traditional media become increasingly irrelevant.

Implausible, you insist?”

The bottom line:
It is better to be judged by 12, than carried by 6.
Parse that.

Considering that both television and radio reports had multiple stories of such mobs throwing rocks and bottles at cars, I would think it would be reasonable to assume that the same thing would happen to you if they surrounded your car during the same events.

NC law specifically references that one has to have a reasonable belief that the use of force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm… It does not require that such injuries have to be inflicted, nor does it require that a weapon be displayed or used.

Now, there may be an uphill challenge to it… But a prosecutor would have to prove that you did not have a reasonable fear.

When someone attempts to break into your car with you inside it are you allowed to run over the “innocents” standing in front of your car so you can flee?

I’m confused by this in the original post.

“It is also worth noting that if you respond to even a legitimate threat that is non-deadly in nature with a deadly force response, it’s quite possible that you will be deemed the deadly force aggressor, even if the other party was the non-deadly force aggressor. In that case the other party could well be legally justified in using deadly defensive force against your deadly force aggression.”

Doesn’t this fly in the face of the innocence element? Doesn’t their original act exclude their defense because of the “non-deadly force” they were in the process of committing?

    Matthew Carberry in reply to Merlin01. | September 23, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Proportionality. You can escalate force as long as it is reasonable, but you can’t blanket respond to non-deadly force with deadly force.

    If I deliberately shove you, absent some other articulatible elements of how that is putting your life in danger (and “I might trip and fall and hit my head” is gonna be a stretch), then you can’t shoot me. You have escalated your defensive force unreasonably.

    You could probably pepper spray the hell out of me though, for instance.

      Matthew Carberry in reply to Matthew Carberry. | September 23, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Left off. So if I shove you with no other elements a “reasonable person” would consider as me using deadly force against you, and you go to draw. I am now in reasonable fear of your unreasonable use of deadly force and can justifiably respond in kind with my own deadly force.

    tyates in reply to Merlin01. | September 23, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    He’s saying that a bunch of protestors pounding on your car with their fists may not be enough for you to claim self-defense and use deadly force, since they’re not threatening your life. When one picks up a brick or tire iron its a different story.

    Branca wrote a great article on this in 2013 called “the five principles of self defense” during the Trayvon Martin case. It’s definitely worth rereading if you haven’t in a while since they all apply here in some shape or form. For example, if your car is surrounded then the principle of avoidance won’t apply, but the others still will.

“I’m on a flight now using airplane WiFi, so I’ll make this quick.”
Followed by about 16 paragraphs.
I’m both amused and grateful.

StandingAthwartHistory | September 23, 2016 at 9:11 pm

It looks like someone tried “rolling through” some protesters on at least one occasion:

The post appears recent, but the video itself may not be. According to the post, two protesters were charged related to the incident, but the driver wasn’t.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider it an instructional video. Use at your own risk; mileage may vary.

This article is about self-defense law, and I agree with it as far as it goes. But as a quite separate matter I believe that whenever someone is going about his lawful business, and others attempt to prevent him from that business by standing in his way, and the police either can’t or refuse to remove them, he has the moral right to proceed as if they were not there, and by their actions they have consented to be run down. And I believe the law ought to recognise this, and consider all harm suffered by those people to be self-inflicted.

And by this I mean not just mobs blocking roads to protest this or that, but also picketers who prevent people from entering or leaving the premises they are picketing, and whom the police refuse to move, anti-military protesters who invade a firing range or sit on railroad tracks, people who lie down in front of bulldozers or camp in trees that are due to be cut down, etc. All these people, by deliberately putting themselves at risk of harm, have assumed that risk and waived their right not to have that harm done to them. They should not be given a “hecklers’ veto”.

    Arminius in reply to Milhouse. | September 28, 2016 at 1:07 am

    What I don’t understand is why these people who merely block highways are prosecuted for felonies, or at least class A misdemeanors.





    Sec. 20.01. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:

    (1) “Restrain” means to restrict a person’s movements without consent, so as to interfere substantially with the person’s liberty, by moving the person from one place to another or by confining the person. Restraint is “without consent” if it is accomplished by:

    (A) force, intimidation, or deception…

    Sec. 20.02. UNLAWFUL RESTRAINT. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly restrains another person.

    (b) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:

    (1) the person restrained was a child younger than 14 years of age;

    (2) the actor was a relative of the child; and

    (3) the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the child.

    (c) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is:

    (1) a state jail felony if the person restrained was a child younger than 17 years of age; or

    (2) a felony of the third degree if:

    (A) the actor recklessly exposes the victim to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury;

    (B) the actor restrains an individual the actor knows is a public servant while the public servant is lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of official power or performance of an official duty as a public servant; or…”

    When a mob, which is all the #BLM crowd is, blocks a highway they are restricting people’s movements without their consent, they are doing it by force or intimidation, and considering how violent these #BLM mobs are (have you seen the size of the concrete blocks they throw at people; they are no respecters of human life) I would argue that they are putting their victims at risk of substantial bodily harm.

Char Char Binks | September 25, 2016 at 5:17 pm

I agree with Rags — go only as fast and dangerous as necessary (If I may so paraphrase him). But what about the people who, on many occasions, including in Ferguson, deliberately jumped in front of moving cars, even letting the car roll over their feet? I agree with Mulhouse that they’re morally responsible for their own injuries, if any, but what does the LAW say about that?