Is self defense in Washington state v an unreasonable danger or “about to be injured”


in washington state, is the UoF in self-defense justified when placed in or facing an unreasonable danger or, when and only when a person believes he is she is about to be injured?

It seems to me that these are not the same thing, and moreover, the difference between them may partly explain a different use of force by police officers as compared to the public.

Based on long-standing supreme court ruling, police use of force, if questioned or made a subject of a lawsuit for civil rights or other violations, is supposed to be judged by the reasonable or not reasonable standard. This goes back to the case Graham v Connor, 1989, which is an important and helpful decision for the police, though at the time it made it easier to sue police for abuse. Police conduct, especially when it comes to use of force or seizures and arrests, must be judged by a reasonable or not standard.

Now, the city of Seattle has a website and they have safety tips for youth. The safety tips for youth say hand over your stuff when someone is demanding your wallet, cell phone, etc.

The reason is that the city leaders of Seattle believe that, if and when someone is demanding your stuff, you are in danger of a fight that injures or kills you. And, they also believe that the danger of a fight and the resulting danger of injury or death outweigh the benefit of keeping your wallet and cell phone.

(Of course, that is whole other matter, the question of whether or not we wish to hand over our stuff to robbers because of risk of injury . . . If you have read the Melian dialogue of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, you would know that Thucydides places in the mouth of the leaders of Melos the reasons that they will not submit to Athenian rule and bullying, despite the fact that Athens was bigger, stronger and was seemingly able and fully willing to destroy them. And, in the story, the people of Melos do not submit and they are attacked and all adult men are put to death and the women and children were sold as slaves.)

Therefore the people of Melos were fools . . . or . . . the people of Melos were martyrs.

But the question is whether or not we honor the dead of Melos as martyrs to the cause of freedom. I think we do.

Anyway, if and when a person is demanding your wallet or your cell phone, the city of Seattle does not recommend that you wait till you are about to be injured or engage in calculations about whether or not you are about to be injured because that is not safe, or that you calculate the odds of actual physical contact. The advice of the city of Seattle is to just assume, when a guy is demanding your stuff, that you are going to be attacked and injured, and based on that assumption, hand over your stuff.

The city of Seattle says, approximately, This is a seriously dangerous situation, and we recommend you simply hand over your stuff rather than risk injury.

So, is the group of “dangerous situations” of when a hostile guy demands your wallet or cell phone identical to or somewhat different from and larger than the group of the situations in which a reasonable person would reasonably believe he or she is “about” to be attacked?

I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me as if the jury instructions, which are commonly used in a case of self-defense but which are not written by the legislature, should be amended or changed to into,

The use of force is justified when a reasonable person reasonably believes that he or she is in serious, unreasonable danger.

You and I and every other sane person at times takes reasonable precautions to reduce unnecessary dangers. You and I and most other sane people in Washington state and other states put on a seat belt when driving in a car; the reason is that the seat belts tend to reduce injuries and death. The “cost” of using the seat belt is negligible compared to the benefits to people personally and to society of using seat belts.

A person driving a car is at slight risk of car accident, but there are things that make driving unreasonably unsafe for you and for others and these things tend to be forbidden by law. Driving at 85 mph on i5, usually, is unreasonably unsafe for everybody except perhaps a guy taking a woman to the hospital for childbirth, or a other medical emergencies.

Driving through red stop lights in Seattle or on Mercer Island is not reasonably safe, despite the fact that sometimes you will get through and sometimes you will not. No one should drive through red lights on the basis that half of the time they get through without a car accident and the odds seem to them pretty good . . .

Taking a revolver and putting in 1 bullet/round and spinning the cylinder is not reasonably safe, unless you place not value on your life. 5 out of 6 times you survive, maybe, depending on the cylinder . . . Still, the process of Russian roulette is not a safe practice. At least, most people are going to agree with me that Russian roulette is not a safe practice and neither is overdosing on heroin or certain other drugs.

Now, no one, or very few perhaps, who is injecting themselves with a large dose heroin knows whether or not any given certain dose will be a deadly overdose.

No sane person makes decisions based on the lack of knowledge as to which day, of taking large doses of heroin, is the one that is about to kill him by an overdose.

The sane approach is to say that taking any or all of these overdoses is both dangerous and unreasonably dangerous, and therefore, should be avoided. Everybody should abstain from taking any large doses of heroin, and not justify taking them based on lack of knowledge as to which large dose will be enough to kill him or her or which one will result in addiction or other harmful consequences.

So, the question in a self-defense case should be, I believe, was the use of force reasonable, and not merely, was the use of force based on a potentially smaller subject of situations in which a reasonably believes he is about to be attacked.

Unreasonable danger of attack is often sufficient to justify the use of force, apart from considerations of “about to be injured,” I believe.

Here is the common jury instructions re self-defense and following is a modification:

[The [use of] [attempt to use] [offer to use] force upon or toward the person of another is lawful when [used] [attempted] [offered] [by a person who reasonably believes that [he] [she] is about to be injured] [by someone lawfully aiding a person who [he] [she] reasonably believes is about to be injured] in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against the person, and when the force is not more than is necessary.]


[The [use of] [attempt to use] [offer to use] force upon or toward the person of another is lawful when [used] [attempted] [offered] either [by a person who reasonably believes that [he] [she] is about to be injured] [by someone lawfully aiding a person who [he] [she] reasonably believes is about to be injured] or when a person is placed in a situation of unreasonable danger that is threatening or dangerous to his life, health or property, in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against the person, and when the force is not more than is necessary.]

If and when a man comes to me with a revolver and a single bullet/round and spins the chamber and points the gun at me with his finger on the trigger, then, that is unreasonably dangerous, but I neither believe nor disbelieve that I am about to be injured.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *