Question about self defence laws

This may seem like a dumb question but bear with me.

Suppose I was in school and Bubba, the school bully, decided one day that he was going to give me painful wedgies every day. And suppose that Bubba was a couple of years older than me and was going to graduate at the end of this year, so I’d only have to put up with the bullying for a year (this is important). And suppose also that Bubba was the principle’s boy, the town athletic hero and was perceived by all as a really great guy who’d never hurt a fly.

Now, I cannot run away from Bubba due to the aforementioned athletic abilities and I cannot hide from him because he brings bloodhounds into school to hunt out his victims (work with me, here). I can’t snitch because no-one would believe me and I can’t beat him up because he’s built like a brick shithouse.

I can’t somehow incapacitate him because, due to an unfortunate encounter with a radioactive spider at birth, he has extraordinary regenerative capabilities.

And he’s still giving me the frigging wedgies.

For the purposes of this hypothetical I have just two options.

  1. Kill Bubba
  2. Endure the wedgies for a year until he graduates.

My question is, would I be able to claim legal self defence if I killed him?

In other words, can I claim self defence under U.S. law if I kill someone who is hurting me but not threatening my life in any way and who will only be inflicting pain on me for a relatively short while?
FTR - I’m 20, well out of high school and have never been given a wedgie :slight_smile:

There is absolutely no way killing Bubba would be considered self-defense. Such a defense only works when you are faced with immediate threat of death or great bodily harm. I’ve never heard or anyone dying from a wedgie.

But that brings up another question (sorry for the hijack): Couldn’t Gomez bring assault charges against Bubba? I’m sure the school authorities would try to convince him otherwise. But how is a bully harrasing someone at school any different from an adult being assualted as he walks down the street?


The affirmative defense of “self-defense” requires that you use the force necessary to protect yourself because of a reasonable belief that the other person intends to inflict great bodily harm or death. “Wedgies” are not great bodily harm or death.

  • Rick

How are you going to kill someone with extraordinary regenerative capabilities?

There’s going to be sufficient evidence of assault on Bubba’s part long before there’s going to be sufficient evidence of justifiable homicide on your part.

Self defense is justifiable only to prevent immediate severe bodily injury that may or may not result in death. Self defense is not limited to killing the person, it could be any action to save your person.

Try this. If jerkjock is harassing you everyday, endure it for a year. Have someone video cam his exploits on you, not just one time but everytime you can. keep the tapes safe and make sure to make lotsa copies. At the end of the year, sue him (and the school and the principal) for harassment, violation of cvil rights, mental anguish and anything else you can think of and watch his career and permanent record go down the drain just before graduation which he wont be a part of. Send copies of the tape to the school board, the local newspapers, police and district attorney.
When he comes after you with a bat, THEN kill him. :slight_smile:

Sick spiderman on him.

Cut apart some underwear so that you have the back, with the label, and a strip about 3" wide, long enough to have come around to the front. Smear the ex-underwear with Caro syrup mixed with red food coloring just before you go outside, then put it in the back of your pants. When he gives you the wedgie, scream, grab your crotch, and fall to the ground. Make sure there are witnesses.

Refuse treatment. Get up and hobble away as fast as you can.

Not laughing is really, really important.

He probably wouldn’t bother you again.

If you don’t want to go for the fake blood, use peanut butter, but be prepared to endure an entirely different set of humiliations.

Hey, it’s only a year.

Thanks for your responses guys. Very informative.

I’ve one more request. Does anyone know of any websites which state that the official legal position in the US is that you cannot kill someone and claim self defence if you know your life is not under threat from the actions of your aggressor?

Believe me, I’ve tried a great many permutations of search terms on google and have drawn naught but blanks. Can anyone help me?

I can’t point you to any one website showing the “official legal position in the U.S.”, because there really isn’t one. Self defense usually applies to a state prosecution for, say, murder or battery, and there are fifty different states with fifty different self defense statues and case law, not counting any self defense laws that would apply in the various federal circuits. We can tell you what they call “black letter law”, general legal principles that most courts will follow, but it isn’t really the same thing as an official United States position. The official positions concerning state prosecutions on self defense are found in those individual states’ code books and case reporters.

I think we have seen clearly that killing someone for a wedgie won’t fly.

As a slight hijack though the OP also suggests another interesting point. Pre-emptive self-defense.

Assume what he is getting is worse than a wedgie and consistent. Say a thorough beating where he can’t be certain he will or won’t live at each beating. Given jerkjocks amazing regenerative powers Gomez launches a surprise attack from behind a hedge as jerkjock walks home and kills him (doing enough damage to negate the regenerative powers).

In this case jerkjock was not directly threatening Gomez. Can Gomez claim self defense in this case? (Assume a pattern of attacks can be established and proven)

IANAL, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as “official legal position” for something this vague. It’s based on precedent and circumstance. IIRC, there have been some successful self-defense defenses of murder when the person’s life was not in immediate danger. However, in these so-called “burning bed” cases (after the woman who burned her abusive husband in his sleep), the defense claimed that the ongoing abuse did endanger the woman’s life and her only possibility for defense was to strike pre-emptively.

I’m not about to say what I think about that defense in GQ, but I’d point out that the situation you cite doesn’t even involve the possibility of some future lethal threat. You’re trying to justify murder to avoid humiliation.

Sounds like the battered wife defense!

For interesting discussion purposes, I’ll point out that some jurisdictions permit an “imperfect self defense” theory. As we’ve said above, self-defense requires that the accused reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. Imperfect self-defense lets the accused show he truly, though unreasonably, believed he was in such danger. If he can show this, it negates the malice element of murder, and usually leaves a manslaughter-type charge left.

As pravnik ably pointed out, murder is generally a state crime. If you have a specific state, we can probably give some specific citations to statutory and case law.

  • Rick

I believe that in Texas you are allowed to shoot someone trying to break into your house.

I also believe that the prosecutor must show, without a reasonable doubt, that you had intentions to harm (or kill) another that was unrelated to self defense. Claiming self defense IS reasonable doubt.

Person claiming self defense does not have actually be in harms way. That person need only believe he was in dire danger. I think thats true in some if not most states.

X~Slayer(ALE), I’m not sure that that’s entirely correct – I’m talking about the “person need only believe he was in dire danger” bit, not whether Texas has a “Make My Day” law, of which I’m unsure (but it sounds right, knowing Texas), nor whether the prosecutor ultimately bears the burden of proof with regard to self-defense (which is correct, so long as the defendant has raised colorable evidence to place the issue in contention).

The laws of most states aren’t entirely consistent on whether their version of self defense uses an objective or subjective standard, though virtually all of them describe it as an objective standard. By objective vs. subjective, I’m talking about the person’s belief that it is necessary to use force to defend himself or herself from imminent harm. An objective standard asks whether the person’s belief was reasonable; i.e., would a hypothetical reasonable person in the person’s shoes think that force was necessary? A subjective standard, by contrast, asks only whether the person’s belief that force was necessary was honest.

I think we can all see the appeal of a subjective standard: after all, what good does an objective standard do? In these sorts of situations, a reasonableness requirement wouldn’t change anyone’s behavior – that’s just not how the limbic system operates. As some dead judge famously remarked, “detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.” But the big problem with a subjective standard is that it risks an open season on criminals, or near-criminals, or just people who because of cross-cultural (or cross-racial?) differences invoke fear in other people. Think about Goetz, the white man who shot four black youths on the New York subway who perhaps were going to mug him, but perhaps were just making fun of him. So maybe we don’t want to permit rampant vigilanteism.

But even though the self defense standard is objective and looks to the reactions of a hypothetical reasonable person, that necessarily raises the question of whether this reasonable person is a man, a woman, strong, weak, and so forth. Normally, the standard incorporates the person’s gender and physical characteristics. In State v. Warrow, the defendant was permitted to invoke the defense of self defense when she shot an unarmed, drunk man who was threatening her child. Normally, in such a situation, the defense would not be available because the reasonable person doesn’t think that deadly force is necessary to counter a nondeadly threat. But in this case, the court took cognizance of the fact that the victim was a big man, whereas the defendant was a 5’4" woman on crutches.

While Warrow seems well and good, the incorporation of the characteristics of the defendant into the reasonable person against whose conduct we’re measuring the defendant’s, we threaten to collapse the objective standard into a wholly subjective standard. As GaryM brought up, the Battered Women Defense cases start to go down this line. Is the reasonable person a female, much smaller than the aggressor? Is the reasonable person aware of a long history of abuse from this aggressor and attuned to his moods and predilections? Is the reasonable person under the sway of a psychological tendency known as “learned helplessness”? Heck, if we go much further, we’re asking whether the reasonable person is racist and afraid that all African-Americans are threatening him with concealed handguns.

But then again, as Bricker points out, people who subjectively belief that using force was necessary but whose belief we wouldn’t call reasonable are not just left to the wolves and convicted of murder to the same extent as a cold-blooded killer. Usually (but not always – some states have an “all or nothing” self-defense rule), people who kill under the honest but unreasonable belief that using deadly force was necessary to repel a deadly attack can invoke an “imperfect” self-defense doctrine. In these jurisdictions, this mitigates the crime from murder to manslaughter.

Judge Judy always says you can only use an EQUAL amount of force to defend yourself.

Quit wearing underwear.