Maintaining "innocence" in a self defense claim

According to our training in order to maintain the claim self defense we must be innocent.

Innocent: Free from guilt or fault, harmless in effect or intention. You or the person you are defending must be free of fault, instigation or escalation. You cannot start or condone a fight, then use deadly force and claim self-defense.

Does this mean that if my wife calls a person a jerk, because he almost hit us with his car in a parking lot, that I can’t use deadly force to protect her if that person attempts to kill her? Humans during an escalating conflict are rarely purely innocent. If you started the conflict by calling someone a name, are you prohibited from using deadly force no matter what happens next?

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The concept of proportional response is what fits. If your wife calls someone a name and that individual attempts to kill her, you can use a proportional response to defend her.

If you started it, the only sure way to maintain your “innocence” is to walk away and keep walking.

The whole idea behind carrying a gun for defense is that it is a response of last resort. I’m sure I am paraphrasing Mas Ayoob, but he once wrote, “it’s not when can I draw and fire, it’s when do I have to draw and fire?”


During my LTC course a young man asked if he could put a gun in his truck and respond by shooting the thief that kept stealing from his truck. He wanted to claim self-defense for a setup. What an idiot. People like that don’t need to carry. But it’s a right (my belief) under the 2nd amendment.

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This was a real life example. The motorist circled around back towards us. I got in between the vehicle and my wife, but we were badly positioned, defenseless and ill prepared at night with few people around. He opened his window and apologized. I sighed a sigh of relief. I now know that I would have moved us quickly to a safer position. The guy would not have been able to apologize, but we wouldn’t have been wondering if we’re going to get shot.

Thanks for the responses

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Ok so try this. You call someone a name, it escalates to push & shove. You stop & walk away. You are no longer an aggressor. He gets a tire iron to beat you with. Hmmm whats next?


Sounds like you may have a duty to retreat, but if there is nowhere to retreat, then you defend your life.

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If you fear for your life or great bodily harm you can use deadly force, period. No if ands or buts however that does not mean you will not be prosecuted.

Although your situation sounds more like road rage and confrontation (contact with the aggressor) should be avoided and reported.

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