Thursday, December 20, 2012

MBE Fast Fact: Retreating Before Using Self Defense

Many of my MBE Fast Facts directly result from questions that come up while I am tutoring students. And an interesting issue was raised during a recent lesson regarding self-defense. There is much in the news regarding Stand Your Ground laws, which essentially state that if you have the right to use deadly force to defend yourself, there is no need to first attempt to retreat prior to using that force. These laws do not remove the requirement that you must believe your life is in danger prior to using deadly force, but they do remove the requirement that you must retreat prior to using such force.

But the law you need to know for the MBE is slightly different. On the MBE, there is a duty to retreat (assuming you are not in your home) before defending yourself with deadly force, but only if you were the initial aggressor in the altercation. In other words, if X punches Y, and Y then proceeds to attack X with a knife, X has the right to use self defense to defend himself from the deadly force imposed by Y, but because X was the initial aggressor, X cannot use deadly force if retreat is reasonable. X must first attempt to escape.

But, if the facts are slightly different, and Y attacks X with deadly force, and Y is the initial aggressor, then the law is similar to the law in those states following Stand Your Ground; namely, X need not attempt to retreat before defending himself with deadly force against Y.

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