View Full Version : Surviving The Judicial Jungle After The Fight Is Over

Darren Laur
July 31, 2002, 09:29 PM
Self-Protection and Tactical Response Options Theory:


I am not a lawyer (just a street cop) and therefore, I am not giving legal advice. The purpose of this post is to bring to light some of the issues surrounding the legalities of self defence. One must know the laws of their specific country and ensure that any action taken in self defence falls within those laws. This post is for information only


When it comes to using force there are specific legal constraints placed upon citizens in a self defense situation. It is very important to understand that when it comes to using force, you will be held accountable, both criminally and civilly for your actions.

In my opinion, the number one legal issue when using force in a self defence situation will be, was the amount of force used to defend yourself “reasonable” the word reasonable, however, will mean different things to different people. What is a reasonable level of force to you may not be a reasonable level of force to a judge and or jury.

Tactical Response Options brings the issue of reasonable force into a set of steps or continuum which you, the police, and the courts can usually agree upon

What is the “Tactical Response Options Theory ?” it is a way that one can place any situation they find themselves in from non-violent to extremely violent and match it against a reasonable tactical response option which you may have to use in a self defence situation. There are seven categories in this theory:


Your physical presence is in fact a tactical response option. Prior to any physical confrontation, an opponent will usually size you up. If you are a person who keeps in good physical shape, then the predator will more than likely leave you alone and pick an easier target. If, however, you look like an oil slick in a bag that could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag, then you are a prime target for the street criminal. I call this “Force Presence”, and if you have it you send a clear message to a possible attacker that says “Don’t mess with me unless you’re willing to get hurt

How many times have you looked at a person who you have never seen before and said “ I would not want to mess with that guy” That is force presence. To have this tool will provide you with an added edge on the street


There are basically two ways that we communicate with others:

a) verbally
b) non-verbally

always remember, if the voice and body don’t match, always believe the body ( see my post of Ritualized Combat)


These techniques would include such things as:

- balance displacement
- superior physical strength or numbers
- pain compliance
- lever and joint manipulations
- throws and takedowns
- mechanical control techniques

Although individual empty hand compliance techniques may offer physical control by themselves, they may also offer physical control by combining with other techniques. A good example of this would be the rear bent arm shoulder lock which is usually used as a restraining technique. Although this hold would be characterized as a lever and joint manipulation technique, it also incorporates balance displacement, superior physical strength, pain compliance and a takedown, if required.

The degree to which empty hand compliance techniques will work to control an individual are dependant upon:

1) speed and strength of application: As most empty hand compliance techniques involve some kind of grapple, it is very important that the person applying the technique does so quickly and with power. If an empty hand compliance technique is applied half heartedly, it would surely fail and leave you in a position of physical disadvantage.

2) Precision of application: This is very important when it comes to pain compliance and lever/joint manipulations. In order for these two techniques to work with maximum results, you have to be target specific.

3) Resistance level of the subject: Empty hand compliance techniques should only be attempted on those individuals who are:

a) passively aggressive, or
b) stunned to the point where they are no longer actively aggressive

At no time should an empty hand compliance technique be used as a first force response option when faced with a person who is actively aggressive or, you reasonably believe is about to become actively aggressive. To attempt such an action in a dynamic situation would place the defender in serious jeopardy unless very skilled and even then, the use of these techniques are questionable.


Empty hand impact techniques are those techniques which employ punches, kicks, elbows, knees and other similar techniques which involve delivering a traumatic blow to another person. These types of techniques are usually used to:

- close or create distance
- distract a subject to whom it is being applied
- enhance an empty hand control technique

The use of empty hand impact techniques can be used , when appropriate and reasonable to do, in the following ways:

a) To cause a motor dysfunction or stunning effect: this level of force would be applied to the major muscle masses or pressure points of the limbs and torso. Application of force to these body targets usually result in no long term physical effects other than bruising

b) To break bone or cartilage: If a motor dysfunction or stunning technique failed, o was inappropriate and unreasonable given the totality of the circumstances, this level of force would be applied to the joints and bones of the body. The defender must reasonably believe that they are in danger of serious bodily injury and that there are no other reasonable options available other than the use of these breaking techniques to defend themselves with.

c) Deadly force: In order for the defender to use an empty hand impact technique as a deadly force response option, certain criteria must be present:

1) the attacker must have the means to carry out the threat of death or serious bodily injury to the defender or someone under their protection. The means could include but is not limited to gun, knife, club, or any other weapon or, the attacker may be skilled fighter who has trained his ability to be deadly.
2) The attacker has the intent to carry out the threat of death or serious bodily injury to the defender or someone under his protection
3) The defender feels that his life of the life of a person under his protection is in jeopardy of death or serious bodily injury, and
4) That other lower tactical response options had failed or were inappropriate and/or unreasonable to be used given the totality of the circumstances to have stopped the threat of death or serious bodily injury to the defender or another person under his protection

All four conditions must be present in order for deadly force to be used. If faced with these four conditions, a defender may be justified in attacking those vital targets of the body which could cause death or serious bodily injury such as the throat, or spine.


It is generally accepted that there are three categories of weapons:

1) Impact weapons
2) Edged/pointed weapons
3) Firearms

Impact weapons:

Impact weapons include anything that you can grab, real or improvised, which can be used to hit another person. The biggest benefit of impact weapons are:

1) reach advantage
2) improved striking power over empty hand impact techniques
3) speed

The use of impact weapons can be used, when appropriate and reasonable to do so, in the following ways:

1) implied force presence: by producing an impact weapon the situation is deescalated to the point where the attacker halts his physical attack
2) mechanical control: here the defender may use an impact weapon to assist in the application of an empty hand compliance technique. Eg the use of a pool cue to apply an arm lock
3) to cause a motor dysfunction: this level of force would be applied to the major muscle masses or pressure points of the limbs and torso. Application of force to these body targets usually result in no long term physical effects other than bruising
4) to break bone or cartilage
5) deadly force:

Darren Laur
July 31, 2002, 09:31 PM
Edged/Pointed Weapons:

Edged or pointed weapons are those tools which have a sharpened edge or point which may be used to cut or puncture the human body. Examples include, knives, screwdrivers, broken bottles.

In Canada, the definition of deadly force is any level of force which is designed to cause death or grievous bodily harm. Because of this definition, the use of a knife in a physical altercation in Canada ( and I believe in the USA as well) should only reserved for those situations in which one is in fear of death or grievous bodily injury. It is my opinion that a knife can only be used in one of two ways:

1) Force Presence: justified in using this level of force and by producing the blade, the situation is de-escalated to the point where the attacker halts his physical attack

2) Deadly Force


Firearms include handguns, rifles, shotguns. Again, because of the very real threat of causing death or grievous bodily injury, he use of firearms should only take place in a deadly force self defence situation. Firearms can be used in two ways:

1) Force Presence
2) Deadly Force

In Empty Hand Impact techniques and weapon techniques, the use of deadly force should only be used as a last resort but must be realized by all that it may be an unavoidable necessity to protect yourself or someone you love from death or grievous bodily injury.

It is important to understand that when an individual uses deadly force his intent is to stop the threat of death or grievous bodily injury to himself or others where lesser force response options had failed or were inappropriate and unreasonable given the totality of the circumstances

Escalation and De-Escalation Of Tactical Response Options

When it comes to escalating your options in a self defence situation, you do not have to start at force presence and work your way up. Escalation through tactical response options may take place because:

A) a tactical option chosen was ineffective, or
B) you reasonably believed, based upon the totality of the circumstances, that a lower tactical response option would be ineffective or inappropriate

there are four factors which may lead a defender to believe that lower tactical response options would be ineffective or inappropriate:

1) Attacker factors
2) Defender factors
3) Environmental factors
4) Levels of resistance


A) Age: is the attacker 22yrs while the defender is 55. Most people who are younger are usually stringer, faster, and more capable physically
B) Size: Size has a definite advantage in a physical encounter. This is why in boxing they have different weight classes. In a physical combative situation, the ability to protect yourself id directly effected to a great extent, on the size difference between the attacker and the defender if all other things are equal. This is not a sure thing however
C) Gender: this woks for women and against men in most circumstances. If the attacker is a man and the defender a woman, the courts will usually give the woman more room to escalate quicker that if the attacker/defender rolls were reversed
D) Skills or perceived skills: What kind of combative skills and training does your attacker possess. If the attacker is skilled, a defender may have to escalate his force response options to protect himself
E) Multiple attackers: Any time a single defender has to defend against two or more attackers, the potential for the defender to get seriously hurt is greatly enhanced
F) Weapons: any time a weapon is brought to a physical confrontation, consider it a deadly force situation
G) Pre-Assaultive Signs (Ritualized Combat) See my other post on this very important topic
H) Mentality of the attacker: is your attacker emotionally disturbed, drunk, or high on drugs


A) Size: same as attacker factors
B) Age: same as attacker factors
C) Gender; same as attacker factors
D) Skill level/physical abilities: what is your skill level and physical abilities.
E) Exhaustion: as a physical encounter goes on, the ability to protect oneself is greatly effected by physical and mental exhaustion
F) Injury: If you become injured in a street fight, your ability to protect yourself is going to be effected negatively
G) Ground fighting: the last place you want to be is on the ground in the street, especially if you are not winning. In today’s world the issue of multiple attackers is a reality. If grounded and not in control the likelihood of being severely injured by “having the boots laid to you” is an ugly fact
H) Perception of threat: When it comes to a court of law, your actions will be judged upon your perception of threat. The court will then judge your actions by seeing if your perceptions were objectively reasonable, in the light of facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, and whether you were acting in good faith. This perception of threat must be “real”. This is why it is so important that if your use of force becomes questionable, you ensure that you articulate your perception of threat clearly and concisely
I) Imminent danger of death or grievous bodily injury: If you are faced with this, you must do everything in your power to protect yourself, this could include the use of deadly force
J) Position/time/ and distance: The need to take immediate action will place time constraints on a defenders evaluation of a potential hostile situation. A defenders distance from threat can reduce available time to react safely. The likelihood of making a wrong decision is greatly increased when there is insufficient time to make a thorough evaluation of threat.
K) Tactical withdrawal/ disengagement: Sometimes, if not most times, the best thing to do when faced with violence is to walk away. There are , however, times that walking is not an option, this is a call that you will have to make


A) Hostile environment: if you find yourself in a hostile environment such as a rough bar or rough part of town, even if you win, you run the risk of fighting others around.
B) Terrain: what kind of terrain are you fighting on and how is it affecting your footing and balance. This may have a direct effect on the kind of tactical response option you choose
C) Weather: if you are fighting outside, the weather may also play a factor in balance, footing, and the ability to see
D) Lighting: Lighting usually has a direct affect on personal perceptions. Because of this fact, the ability to see, or lack thereof, may effect your tactical response option choice

Darren Laur
July 31, 2002, 09:32 PM

A potential attacker can also demonstrate various levels of potential resistance. The type of resistance from the attacker will directly influence the tactical response option which a defender will choose to defend themselves with:

A) Non-verbal intimidation: through the use of Ritualized Combat and attacker telegraphs his intent on attacking you
B) Verbal non-compliance: this is where an attacker is showing non-compliance by being argumentative or offering threats towards you. This level of resistance is usually combined with other levels
C) Passive resistance: this is where a person does not listen to verbal attempts to de-escalate a situation. A person here will usually offer non-compliance by refusing to move but offers no direct physical assault. An example of this type of resistance is where a bouncer or doorman asks a person to leave a bar. Upon being asked, the patron says pound sand, and refuses to move from his seat
D) Defensive resistance: This level is similar to passive but at this level a person may offer defensive resistance by holding onto people or object. Back to the bar again as an example, the patron upon being moved by the bouncer now grabs onto a table to prevent such action from taking place. At this level of resistance there is no direct physical assault taking place.
E) Assaultive: this level of resistance is where a person actually offers a direct physical attack
F) Deadly force: this level of resistance is where a person is assaultively resistant to the point where his actions may cause death or grievous bodily injury. This would also include weapons

It must be understood that the levels of resistance can change very quickly within the context of a physical altercation. A person can be passively aggressive at one point and then two seconds later becomes assaultive in a deadly force context.

Again, a defenders may escalate through their tactical response options by either:

1) Choosing an option and finding it to be ineffective; or
2) Forming a reasonable belief that lower options would be ineffective or inappropriate given the totality of the circumstances

A defender’s choice as to an appropriate and reasonable tactical response option, when being threatened or attacked, will be dependant upon attacker factors, defender factors, environmental factors, and levels of resistance. Once a person chooses to become actively involved with a combative situation, they will pick one of the tactical response options as their method of physical defence.


Physical force de-escalation is based upon the level of compliance or control exhibited by the attacker in which force is used. Once a defender has stopped an attackers physical resistance or assault, escalation of force should stop and de-escalation should begin.

If the defender continues to escalate his level of force even though the attacker has stopped his assault or was defeated, he will be using excessive force and be found criminally and civilly liable for his actions. Remember, there is no such thing as catch up in a self defense encounter


1) The theory is subjective: This theory/method allows you to apply force subjectively based upon your perceptions
2) The theory is dependant upon attacker factors, defender factors, environmental factors, and levels of resistance
3) Confrontations are dynamic and not static: each situation has its own set of unique variables so there can be no absolute rules dictating a defenders response to specific resistance.
4) The Tactical Response Theory is a tool: the theory is just another tool to use in a self defence situation just like a punch or kick. Use the theory to justify and articulate why and how you defended yourself. If you follow it, and are professional in the way you defended yourself, the theory will go along way in protecting yourself on the street and more importantly in the criminal and civil liability forum that will take place years after the physical assault is over

Remember in court, you may live by the sword, but you are judged by the pen. How well you can articulate your reasons for reasonable self defence, can make the difference between freedom or jail time, and that is what this post is all about.

If one finds themselves in trouble, always think about hiring a lawyer who knows about the above noted information !!!!!!!

As a court expert, I have used the above noted information very successfully in all levels of court here in my country, CANADA, to defend both police officers (with some significant changes to the above noted theory specific to law enforcement) and CIVILIANS who had to use force in self defense

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur
Integrated Street Combatives

July 31, 2002, 09:37 PM
Great! Another jewel for my Darren Laur collection! Thanks, Darren! :D

July 31, 2002, 10:19 PM
many, many, many, many thanks. this one's going into my library straightaway.

-best regards


August 1, 2002, 09:20 PM
A really long post. Maybe it would help in a classroom setting for future cops.

Most just dont' think of all that stuff. Bad guy attacks. Pull gun. Shoot bad guy. Thats about it.

Prudence, some level of training and reading, and just plain common sense, usually puts the person defending himself/herself in a fairly good positon.

Deciding to defend, or die, is usually a split second decision. Wait too long, consider too many options, and you are some criminal's victim. Shoot with no thought at all, and you could well be grist for the decidely screwed up American "justice" systems totally out of control mill.

I worry less about a jury, and prosecuter, than I do about nasty types with guns, knives, clubs, or whatever. My decision will always be tilted towards ending a threat. IF it comes to court, at least I would be alive to defend myself. Screw around with indecision, and the whole thing becomes moot.

Cops may be nice guys, or not, but they are NOT there when you need one. The decision to fight or die becomes thrust upon an untrained, surprised citizen. All that money for police protection, and ya gotta do it yourself when it happens.

Darren Laur
August 1, 2002, 10:04 PM
The information was not intended to be used before or during the fight. The information provided is to be used after you have won the fight !!!!!

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur
Integrated Street Combatives

August 3, 2002, 01:11 AM
Maybe it would help in a classroom setting for future cops.

Most just dont' think of all that stuff. Bad guy attacks. Pull gun. Shoot bad guy. Thats about it.

Have you ever attended a police academy? It sounds like you have not. If not, why would you presume to know what is discussed or not discussed?

Hard Ball
August 3, 2002, 10:13 AM
This reminds me of the old Southwestern saying "it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6!"
Good post. Many people do not know or understand the laws of deadly force.:confused:

August 3, 2002, 11:11 AM
Wherefore didst this teacher of (not so) common sense come from? Wherefor will he go when the resident trolls nitpick him to death?

The biggest problem I see with this man, is that he needs his own forum.:) (Darrens Lore). It'd make it easier to find his gems of wisdom.

A Police officer who embraces the citizenry with common sense proverbs and advice? Now thats my kind of LEO! I applaud you, sir. You seem to be everything an LEO needs to be and should be.

You made my ink run dry!

Darren Laur
August 3, 2002, 12:38 PM

I'm actually considering creating my own web page for my school, and I wanted to have a forum where issues specific to realistic Self Protection could be discussed. Calling it "Darren's Lore" is kind of interesting. I like it, I like it !!!!!!

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur
Integrated Street Combatives

August 3, 2002, 08:30 PM

If you do it, please let us know here on TFL! :D

August 4, 2002, 08:52 AM
Knives are a grey area or no? If someone pulls a knife on me, I must escalate to a firearm if possible because I cant tell if he's some kind of pro knife fighter just by looking at him, right?

Or is there indicative signs of body language that will tell if someones an amatuer or pro? Not to my knowledge, but my knowledge is not all encompassing. I would guess that most people who have knives are not any kind of pro with them so maybe I wouldnt have to shoot them. Just get them to back down.

Has anyone ever been convicted for shooting an knife weilding attacker for disparity of force? (I would think not but, hey, I dont spend alot of time in court rooms so dont know.)

August 4, 2002, 09:44 AM

Assume these MOs:

Pros never show their knives until the last second during the attack.

Amateurs show knives from a distance.

They're both attacking you with knives, and what's to keep the amateur from adopting the pro's MO and vice versa?

Point is, if you reasonably believe deadly force is being used against you (which includes just displaying a gun, knife, bat, etc., in a threatening manner), you're justified in stopping the attack.

Would raising your hand, palm out, arm extended, and sternly saying "STOP" cause a reasonable person approaching you to stop? What about if you had a gun in your other hand?

Is it reasonable for you to escalate to the same level you perceive someone attacking you is at? If they display a knife, you display one. If they stab you, you stab them. If they shoot you, you shoot them.

There are some "lines" above that you can read "reasonable action" between, and some that you can read "stupid" between.

August 4, 2002, 10:52 AM
Good point Blackhawk. Kinda what I figured. Its just that I'd hate to shoot a young punk who's into nothing more than a ritualized display of ego enhancement. But then again, he shouldve thought of that before pulling the knife, eh? Some lessons come hard and me being a citizen with no crisis management training could not be expected to hold the knife weilding perp at gunpoint till the guys in blue showed up, could I?

August 4, 2002, 01:02 PM
Some lessons come hard and me being a citizen with no crisis management training could not be expected to hold the knife weilding perp at gunpoint till the guys in blue showed up, could I? No training in CM, and no obligation to hold anybody at gunpoint. Besides, that's a two edged sword. If the perp is held at gunpoint, wouldn't a reasonable person say the perp is reasonable since this maniac is holding a gun on him and threatening to shoot him if he moves? You're not in fear of losing your life or being gravely injured at that point are you....?

Maybe the guy advancing on you ISN'T armed, but you're scared spitless. Maybe he doesn't speak the language. Maybe he's lost, scared, and wanting directions to his sister's house. What then?

The extended arm with open palm up, seems to be universally understood regardless of culture. It doesn't mean "come closer" and is never interpreted as inviting. A stern, well projected, and strong voice at the same time emphasizes the meaning. A gun makes it even stronger. An aggressive posture like a firing stance along with the other things mentioned will stop ANY innocent -- at least to a reasonable mind.

I'm not going to shoot anybody until I see a weapon directed at me, but they're not going to get close enough to use a knife either. If they keep coming with no visible weapon, that might be one of the very few times a warning shot might be in order becaue I've shifted into the "making my case for the jury" mode.

August 5, 2002, 10:01 AM
knives are very very fast. A knife wielder, even an amateur can cover 15 feet and begin stabbing you well before you can draw and fire.

As far as holding a knife-wielder at gunpoint, perhaps the best practice would be to tell them to drop it and disarm themselves before you even consider lowering your weapon and de-escalate.

As far as people using guns againt people with knives, I vaguely recall an incident near Houston, Texas, where a woman was shot by two police officers because she wouldn't drop her steak knife... there are more details than that, of course, but I don't recall the officers being reprimanded or punished in any way.

Excellent posts, Darren!


August 5, 2002, 02:55 PM
Which brings us back in a circle to the old adage...If my gun clears leather somebody's getting shot.

Makes sense to me.