Every year, millions of people participate in offensive and defensive fight training, such as boxing and taekwondo. One concern many of these trained combatants have is whether or not they would be punished more severely in court if they got into a fight with someone outside of the ring or dojo. The answer is not as clear-cut as the movies would have you believe. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself:
You Have a Right to Defend Yourself
Regardless of the type of hand-to-hand combat training you may have had, you are an ordinary citizen in the eyes of the law, with all the associated rights and responsibilities. If you are physically attacked by another person, you have the right to defend yourself. As long as you can provide evidence you were acting in self-defense, you would not face any particularly harsh punishment for using your skills to neutralize a threat.
You May Be Held to a Higher Standard, Though
Having said that, though, your skills may result in you being held to a higher standard, and your behavior may be scrutinized to determine if you really acted appropriately. In many states, your response must be proportional to the threat. If you use excessive force against another person, even though you're defending yourself, you may be criminally charged and/or held liable for the injuries you inflicted on the other combatant.
For instance, an intoxicated person throws a punch at you and you respond with a barrage of kicks and punches that put the person into a coma. You would likely be charged with assault or even manslaughter (if the person dies) because your response to the threat was excessive.
In this type of situation, your training can work against you because the court may feel that
- You should have had more control over your actions, especially if you were trained in a discipline that emphasized self-control
- You should have been more capable than the average person of knowing how to proportionally respond to an attack
The more training and experience you have in a particular discipline, the more it can be held against you, unfortunately. This is why it's important to work with a criminal defense attorney as soon as there are indications you may be charged with a crime. A lawyer can find ways to minimize your skills or show the aggressor was (or appeared to be) more threatening than it may seem on camera and help you avoid being unfairly punished.
For more information about this issue or help with a case, contact an attorney's office like Villarini & Henry LLP.