Is lethal force a valid response to 'Are you threatening me? Yes'?

I’m an ignorant Brit. Suppose I’m in America and get into a situation. I utter the line “Are you threatening me?” and receive a positive response. Am I entitled to use lethal force? What if the response were not negative?

It varies from state to state. Where I live, if I feel that I or my family are threatened with bodily harm or death, I have the right to defend us.

Almost certainly not.

Generally, you can only use lethal force if you reasonably believe that you’re in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, at the hands of the person against whom you are going to use lethal force.

Words alone aren’t enough to create such a reasonable belief. Now, if you ask “are you threatening me?” and the other guy says “Yes” and proceeds to pull out knife and start waving it at you, the answer to your question might change.

Also, the law regarding self-defense (and when it actually operates as an affirmative defense to a violent crime) varies from state to state. In some states, you have a duty to retreat from a violent situation, and you can only use violence to defend yourself if you can show that such a retreat would have been impossible to safely.

But, but “right to defend” does that include a blanket ability to kill the person threatening you, or merely disable them? What if you have a weapon that has a certain granularity to it (for example, you are highly trained in unarmed combat), rather than a shotgun or handgun at close range. If you defend yourself with a gun and it happens to kill the attacker, vs getting into a fight with an attacker who you easily subdue due to self defence skills and then deliver a killing blow to (for example, you break his neck)?

Probably the most important distinctions are deadly force vs. non-deadly force and duty to retreat. Some states allow you to stand your ground rather than retreat, depending on what the situation is.

It seems to boil down to that you can use non-deadly force to prevent imminent injury, but not deadly force unless your life or the life of others is in jeopardy, or if you reasonably believe that you or others are about to be seriously injured. In other words, a ‘reasonable’ level of defense.

IANAL, but you might have a little trouble convincing a jury that a guy saying “yes” to that question and doing nothing else constituted an imminent risk of anything. It might depend on the situation - like if he had you backed down a deserted alley, if you’d seen him pull out a gun before then holster it, etc.

It depends upon which State you are in. Every State has different laws which govern when you may or may not act and to what extent you may act.

To break it down to its most basic, in my State the statute reads:

Examining paragraph b, we see that you must convince the District Attorney, and if not him then a jury, that you reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. The vague portions of this are “reasonably believe” and “great bodily harm.”

In your example, if the person has just responded saying they are threatening you, but not moving to attack you, nor holding a weapon, it would be a hard sell to anyone that you should shoot them. A jury might see it otherwise and side with you, or they might not. Another issue is what sort of “great bodily harm” were they going to cause? If they attack you but are unarmed, then you might have a harder sell to the DA or jury that were in fact going to suffer “great bodily harm” - for example, if a 95-pound girl says she’s going to “murder” a 300-pound footballer with her bare hands, that would be difficult to justify shooting her. But reverse the roles, and the girl would almost certainly be allowed to shoot her attacker.

In my State, this can be summed up by the DA in a statement which was read to us during training: “there is no such thing as warning shots or winging.” Once you start the process of using a weapon to defend yourself, there is no middle ground in their eyes. What this means is if you are justified to defense at the time, then you are justified for everything from showing the weapon to shooting them dead. And if you are not justified to defense at the time, then you are going to be treated very harshly no matter what half-measures you do - firing a “warning shot” when you are not justified to do so would, according to the DA, open you up to an array of serious felony charges.

In your example, if the “martial artist” was justified to defense using deadly force, it really doesn’t matter if they put the attacker in a hammer lock, or use the Mystic Iron Palm to rip out their still beating heart and show it to them. And if they were not justified, then even the hammer lock would give rise to charges of battery, assault, etc.

I should also clarify that my State allows deadly force to prevent someone from entering your home or occupied* vehicle, even if their life and limb are not threatened. See below:

Note this does not quite apply to dwellings other than your home - note the subtle difference:

Also note there are exceptions to your use of deadly force:

In the OP’s example, an overzealous DA might say that the language was provocative enough that items (2) or (3) apply.

So it’s simple - as an “ignorant Brit”, all you need to do is get an App for your phone which downloads all the laws of 50 different States, and memorize them. :smiley:

  • The “occupied” portion is critical, and enforced with a sharp line.

** If you are in the car, then you can defend the car and the occupants.
** If for example your friend (or some other innocent third party) is in the car and you are outside the car, then you can defend the car (and the occupants).
** If the car is unoccupied and someone is attacking it, you cannot defend with deadly force.
** If someone is stealing your car and driving away as you stand there, you cannot defend with deadly force.

It depends. Do you need T.P. for your bungholio?

Was the guy looking at you cockeyed?

Were you wearing a trenchcoat and a cool fedora?

Was it dark and foggy? Did everything lose its color and take on a high-contrast black and white look?

These are important things to consider.

This is not true in all jurisdictions, it’s worth noting. Not too long ago (within the last 10 years, but probably more than 4 years ago), a man shot someone who was in his driveway, apparently on the belief that he was trying to steal or break into his unoccupied car. The district attorney declined to prosecute.

I did, by saying “my State,” and by quoting the code.

(emphasis added)

Are you saying that in your country if you receive a positive response to the question, you can kill someone?

I’ll assume you asked about a threat in return for something reasonably considered an imminent threat of violence, as opposed to threatening legal action, or telling your mother. But why do you think you would end up in such a situation? Even us crude Americans don’t generally go around threatening visitors with violence for no reason. And if you are actually being threatened, why are you stopping to clarify the situation?

In years gone by when I had a federal law enforcement commission, the criteria was pretty strict. At the time the training went something like this:

[li]If you place your hand on your holster, you must be able to later justify your action in your written report, even if it does not progress past this point.[/li][li]If you unsnap the holster, you must be able to later justify your action in your written report, even if it does not progress past this point.[/li][li]If you withdraw your weapon from the holster,you must be able to later justify your action in your written report, even if it does not progress past this point.[/li][li]If you begin to aim your weapon, you must be able to later justify your action in your written report that use of deadly force is imminent.[/li][/ol]
Every step had to be documented in the written report.

If you actually fired your weapon you had to later justify that your life or the life of someone else was in immediate danger at that moment. The part “at that moment” is fleeting, and critical. If before you fired your weapon the suspect decided to turn away and run, the use of deadly force was no longer justified, even if they still had a deadly weapon in their possession. Granted, training and actual use will have changed since then so YMMV.

It’s all in the “tells”. :smiley:

Per Una’s cite above, the law most non-US citizens need to be aware of is that there are sections of the US with a presumed “Castle Doctrine” law applying, where if a person threatens you (in some cases simply by trespassing and not vacating when requested to do so) in your residence or on your property you can quite legally kill them.

It was a little different in Armored. We never had to justify anything below drawing our weapon, and then only really if a complaint was made.

For example(s);

We worked the downtown route and this sometimes involved pushing a two-wheeler loaded with >$100,000 in cash through heavily populated areas. In these instances we would, without a doubt, have our hand on our weapons to discourage any thought of snatch-and-run thefts or anyone acosting us.

In a few rare instances, people would approach us in a suspicious manner, in which case we could immediately position ourselves, put our hands on our weapons and sometimes even pop the snaps on the holster. They always thought better of it at that point.

We had some close calls where people made like they were going to rob us. At one point both myself and my partner had our weapons drawn in response to a threat by three men who clearly intended to take us down. My partner inside the location, standing on the bag of money with his back to the wall and the weapon held in both hands pointed up in front of him, me in the truck, one hand on the door and the other hand holding my weapon pointed up where the criminals could see it. They chose to back off and no report was filed.

That same month we had a similar situation where my partner was backed into a corner by two approaching men who had followed him around the truck. He had his back to the wall 25’ from the truck with no avenue of retreat, popped his weapon and had it just out of his holster still pointed into it, while I again was in the truck, looking straight into the eyes of one man with my gun out and my hand on the door, ready to kick it straight into the back of the head of the lead guy who was just walking past it…when they suddenly noticed we were ready for action and started backing off making excuses. Again, no complaint, no police report, no paperwork on our part.
Back to the OP. HELL NO. Anywhere. Even in Texas, I’m pretty sure you’d be up on a murder rap, and be convicted for it. The only exception being that the other person had a lethal weapon in their hand at the time and the circumstances clearly indicated that s/he meant to kill you.

It does not depend on jurisdiction, given the information in the OP – unless “getting into a situation” means something that renders the question moot. As some others have said, nowhere in the US is an affirmative verbal response to that question sufficient justification for deadly force.

I think you might be thinking of Florida, which passed just about the most obscene self-defense law ever.

Here’s the reasoning:
Stage 1: Argument.
Stage 2: Fight.
Stage 3: Mild to severe injury.
Stage 4: Permanent injury to death.

In most states, you cannot use deadly force until Stage 2 or 3. Florida is the only state that allows deadly force to be used in Stage 1. Yes. Stage 1. If you THINK a fight where somebody MIGHT get hurt is ABOUT to occur, you can kill the other person.

I guess they’ve never seen AI.

Edit: I went to check, and here’s what Florida says.

I like how one part contradicts the other part and the summary.

Go, go Florida.

More info.

Apparently it’s called the “stand your ground” law and several pro-gun states have refused to adopt it.