This is a topic I wanted to introduce to you, the reader and that is what happens after you have defended yourself in an altercation. Understanding that this publication has such a wide variety of readers at locations throughout the world. I will be able to only give out some general information that will primarily pertain to where I live in Texas.
I encourage you to do some research on the laws that cover self-defense in your area. Even within the United States the laws will vary greatly from state to state. For example, in my state I can stand my ground, in other states you have a duty to retreat. However most places will allow you to legally use force to protect your life and those around you. It is important to know the difference between justified and excessive force. It could mean the difference between freedom and a jail sentence.
I would recommend talking to a local law enforcement officer about his use of force policy and what happens when he or she receives a call for service. They will be able to walk you through what happens from their perspective. Use of Force policies help officers in controlling situations by using just enough force to keep them safe and effect an arrest. It can be useful knowledge for you to understand and follow to keep you out of trouble.
You should absolutely contact a defense attorney to explain the laws covering self-defense and how the legal system works. It’s always good to know a defense attorney. Talking with a prosecuting attorney might have a different view of the same laws. Do your research. This is important. It may even be good to set this up as a workshop for your students and share this information.
Timeline: Image a timeline with the event in the middle. To the left is everything that is happening before and leading up to the event. Everything that is right of the event is happening after you have defended yourself.
I tell my students you must be prepared to deal with the aftermath of defending yourself and others.
1. The Event, the actual physical altercation.
2. Criminal Court, arrest and prosecution in the legal system.
3. Civil Court, being sued for injury caused in the altercation.
4. Public Opinion, including media and social media.
The Event. Violence is a horrible thing to have to witness, let alone deal with and survive. Most martial artists enjoy the art and the comradery of training. For most dealing with a knife wielding attacker in a dark parking lot is something they may not think about or prepare for, so the shock of when it happens can be overwhelming. Surviving the event is priority one. This can mean giving the guy your keys, running, or it might mean fighting for your life. Quick violent encounters with an attacker you risk injury and even death. Skills like awareness, avoidance and de-escalation come in handy, but don’t always work. Do you know how to contact emergency services? Do you know first-aid? How do you stop your arm from bleeding? Do you have a plan? Professionals have a plan.
1. Follow your attorney’s advice.
2. See rule number 1
3. Get to a safe place.
4. Apply first aid as needed.
5. Contact the police.
6. Keep your statement simple.
Criminal Court. “I was only defending myself. How did this happen?” Some violent encounters are very clear cases of self-defense, so are not so cut and dry. The police may arrest you at the scene or show up the next day at your house to arrest you. The guy that attacked you that you threw to the ground and knocked out died later at the hospital due to head trauma and you are facing a manslaughter charge. Don’t think it can’t happen because it can. I cringe when I see people get knocked out and their head hits concrete. It’s dangerous. Criminal court can cost you your freedom, thousands of dollars in attorney fees, time away from work, The list goes on. This is why you need to understand the self-defense laws where you live.
Civil Court. After the event and whether or not you end up in criminal court, you may find yourself in civil court being sued for pain and suffering and medical expenses by the very person that attacked you. I have seen people get sued by the family of an armed robber that was shot and later died in the hospital. Civil court is much different than criminal court. I have heard of cases where a burglar broke his leg while breaking into a house and sued the homeowner. The actions that you take defending yourself will hopefully help you in this area.
Public Opinion. Social media is a new monster that you might have to deal with. I admit I am not social media savvy nor am I media savvy. Everyone has a camera and people video and post everything anymore. Several years ago in Florida I saw an article and news cast where a gentleman protected himself during a robbery after giving up his wallet he pulled his concealed carry firearm killing one robber and wounding the other. The family of both armed robbers when being interviewed by the media asked, “Why did he have to shoot them? They were good men, just trying to turn their lives around.” The families of the armed robbers tried to make them into the victims. Winning this battle may determine if your business survives.
Hopefully you or your students will never experience a violent assault, or deal with the court system. However, preparing yourself and your students I feel is worth the time and energy. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say.
In a future article I’ll talk about use of force policies, the timeline before the event and break down the event.
Train hard. Train smart.
Security professional at the Valor Force. He is a Guro of Filipino Martial Arts, author and has contracted with several government agencies as a professional tracker and instructor. Dwight is Corresponding Member of the EUASU.