View Full Version : At what point can one legally respond to a threat?

February 2, 2006, 05:35 PM
I know that this is a highly debatable topic and that it may actually come down to a jury's decision as to whether a crime was committed or if any action taken was done in self defense.

I was at the beach with a female co-worker the other evening. She had recently come to Miami and I decided to show her around. South Beach is pretty quiet during the weekdays and the other night was no exception. I was snapping some photos for her so she could send them to family and friends back home. I was not carrying my gun since that part of Miami Beach is generally pretty safe and I did not want to startle my co-worker. I was carrying my folding knife (4" blade Benchmade 710S (http://www.benchmade.com/products/product_detail.aspx?model=710)), my Surefire LumaMax L2 (http://www.surefire.com/maxexp/main/co_disp/displ/prrfnbr/1141/sesent/00), and I grabbed my Mace triple action spray (http://www.macebrand.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=2).

Two older guys, about mid 50's to early 60's (no offense to anyone in this age bracket), were walking in our general direction. They appeared to be homeless based on the amount of baggage they were carrying. I just kept an eye on them as I was doing for anyone that was in our vecinity. As they got closer one of them started yelling at me and asked why I was taking his picture. I just responded that I wasn't. He then asked me if I wanted him to "kick my a**"? Meanwhile, the other guy he was with was trying to calm him down. I just ignored him and started walking away with my friend. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if he was approaching.

The new law in Florida states that I do not need to retreat if I am threatened before using deadly force. I did not like having my back turned to him but I did not want to stand my gound and provoke him into action. The guy was of average build but he looked like he could have been a veteran. He did not appear to reach for a weapon and it unknown whether or not he was armed. I "was" a black belt in Tae Kwon Do but I haven't practiced in over 12 years.

If he was to come closer to me and continued making threats, would I be justified in macing him? Should I have used the Surefire to blind him momentarily and try to run away? Should I have held my gound instead of turning my back on him? Should I let him make the first move before deciding whether or not I would be justified to escalate unarmed combat into armed combat (with my knife or even my flashlight). Basically, at what point can I escalate to "defensively" where it could not be considered assault? Lets say I have my gun instead of my knife. At what point can I pull it where it will be construed as self defense versus brandishing? How close are you willing to let them get before pulling a weapon or would you risk going hand to hand with an unknown person?

February 2, 2006, 06:12 PM
There is a famous old quote that I fully believe in: "If there's any more bullets in my gun, . . . there ain't gonna be any of that hand to hand bull____"

You did it right, . . . probably just an old drunk runnin' his gums to hear his head roar.

You do not present deadly force, nor use deadly force, until you or someone you are defending is in absolute imminent and forseeable danger of death or a serious threat to do serious bodily harm. If you do, . . . it will not play well with the LEO's who respond, the jury you will face, the judge you will face, nor the criminals you will face in the prison you finally arrive at.

Deadly force is the last resort, although in many states you do not have a duty to retreat. It is commendable, and intelligent I believe, . . . if you can diffuse the situation by leaving a public place, . . . then do it.

But again, . . . as I said topside, . . . when the line is crossed, . . . I'm not going one on one or one on two in much of any fashion. Too old, . . . broken, . . . tired for that. That's why I bought a 1911.

May God bless,

February 2, 2006, 06:24 PM
Well, as you know, down here in Florida, you can respond with deady force if you feel your life is in danger. You may have to prove it in court later, but you can respond if you feel its necessary. In your case, I think it would have been a hard sell in front of a jury.
I live in Miami myself, and by golly, I would never go to South Beach without packing. Thats said, what you describe as happening, does not even remotely rise to the threat level where you needed to defend yourself from anything.
oh, and thanks for the product links, thats always so important in these discussions.

February 2, 2006, 06:51 PM
Local guy who was attacked by another driver for cutting him off stabbed the attacker and was NOT charged after both parties refused to press charges. The new Florida "no retreat" law was mentioned as a factor. This happened today. FWIW

February 2, 2006, 06:56 PM

I guess I will be packing next time I head down to South Beach. Although you may not consider what happaned to me sufficient threat to react, it can turn ugly in the blink of an eye. I am not an alarmist and I feel I can handle myself against the average person. The problem is your assailant may be way above average or might even be armed.


Thanks for the reply. Your posts are often encouraging and offer great advice. I do not take the use of deadly force lightly but would probably use less than lethal force if pushed to. I know Mace versus a contact weapon or a firearm is very bad news.

The main reason for my post is to try and establish some quasi acceptable norm for whnen the use of force (not necessarily deadly force) is justified. Do you risk being suprised or do you act pre-emtively? Thanks for any additional replies.

February 2, 2006, 07:42 PM
Just walk away. Nothing to prove. Avoid trouble if at all possible. Force, especially deadly force, is the last resort. ;)
I live in south florida also. The instructor that taught our class was a BSO sheriff. He said you may even have to absorb some punishment to justify using deadly force, depending on which county you live in and the local prosecutors attitude toward self defense with a fire arm.
That's why I carry a belly gun.

February 2, 2006, 07:45 PM

That is what I did. My concern would be if I got attacked from behind while walking away. I avoid trouble like the plague but if it finds me, I will be ready. I have nothing to prove and will not let my ego get me into trouble. I just don't want to get stabbed or shot in the back!

February 2, 2006, 07:50 PM
I would walk away at angles, so as not to lose sight of the situation. Definately watch your back! You did right.

February 2, 2006, 07:57 PM
You did the right thing. If you had done something else the outcome would have been different.

Awareness, personal restraint and distance are good hassle reducers. Be nice, until it's time not to.

Had you used a more forceful method, everyones adrenaline would have gone way up and the situation could've gotten bad. The after effects are a lot more hassle than a mouthy homeless man.

If walking away from a confrontation ends it, then all is well. If walking away doesn't end it, then end it with as much force as needed to walk away.

February 2, 2006, 08:07 PM
I guess I am not making my question clear enough.

At what point do you do more than wait for the person to attack you? If he follows you or blocks your path of retreat, do you strike pre-emtively or do you risk getting injured and count on your reflexes and reaction time to get you out of the situation?

Would I have been justified in macing him if he walked up to my face and continued to make verbal threats? I would not shoot him for that, but Mace usually has no long term effects on people other than to make them think twice before mouthing off again. I'm sure the use of less than lethal force have a wider latitude than use of a deadly weapon. I guess even if I was wrong, it would be assault with the mace rather than assault with a deadly weapon.

This has really made me reconsider adding less than lethal defenses to my line of defenses when I carry. At least I can say I did not escalate to deadly force immediately.

February 2, 2006, 08:10 PM
At what point can one legally respond to a threat?As soon as he implied that he was going to assault you.

Well, as you know, down here in Florida, you can respond with deady force if you feel your life is in dangerThe law is not a deadly force law itis a force with force law. Not all responses have to be with deadly intent.

Although you may not consider what happaned to me sufficient threat to react, it can turn ugly in the blink of an eye.Any threat of physical harm is sufficient to act on because it can turn ugly in a blink.

Personally I would have walked away as you did.
You have nothing to prove but he probably did.
I would have had my light in one hand and mace in the other.
If it appeared that he was going to try to escalate I would have put the light in his eyes. I know from past experiences that drunks hate this and it is as disabling as the mace.
If he continued he would have gotten the mace, continue past that the knife

February 2, 2006, 08:58 PM
Good reason to brush up on your Tae Kwon Do. You don't have to become Chuck Norris, but some "basic" refresher stuff. If your going to pack, always pack... It's times like this (when you think you don't need too) that you very well may wish you had. Just my opinion...........

Sir William
February 2, 2006, 09:25 PM
Based on your facts as presented, leaving was the proper response. You were not truly threatened. In chivalry, removing the lady from any danger must come first. You did well. I have spent many evenings in South Beach and it attracts all types. That is why some go there, it is a free show.

February 3, 2006, 10:53 AM
I'd back off keeping the threat in sight. You did good.

You mentioned "drunk" so that makes for an anything could happen situation. And your first responsibility is to protect your honey. Tactical withdrawal is acceptable and honorable.

February 3, 2006, 11:36 AM
In my opinion, you did well. The only thing I was uncomfortable with was turning your back on a clearly hostile person.

As far as the law goes, it IS a force by force law, which means as I interpret it, that you can meet any force against you with equal force. Keep in mind, I am no lawyer or leo, and have no intimate knowledge of floridas laws.

It is the common sense and minset of the people that is useful in these situations. You used your most important weapon, your brain....and let this situation go.....now if only more people would engage brain first....

February 3, 2006, 01:32 PM
I guess I am more use to mentally ill homeless people being rude and yelling as you walk by, Because I would have simply told the guy to go ___ himself and move on. I think you would have been found guilty even under FL law. Your walking and the guy never physically try to stop you so what ground are you holding? You are apparently a lot younger then the guy, your a Black Belt in Karate and your armed with a Knife and Mace and your threatened becaused he yelled at you for mistakenly thinking you took his picture? If the guy was unarmed, a jury would not buy that you were in any danger, and even worse you would probably lose a civil case and this homeless guy would be living "high on the hog" with your money.

I think you did the right thing by walking away. Why exactly would you let what some old homeless guy say even bother you. Was your friend cute? I bet this homeless guy wanted to act like a "big tough man", in front of her, and he would have soiled his pants if you yelled at him that you were going to beat him up. Granted, watch your back, because you never know. These homeless guys usually carry something and can be mentally unstable, but in cities 1000 mile north from you they are unfortunately on every street corner, yelling and carrying on, and we just ignore them.

February 3, 2006, 01:45 PM
This is the part of state law that applies:

"(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. "

The way I understand it, before the law changed last year, the courts pretty much had been interpreting the old law the same way, only it wasn't in the statutes.

I'm guessing you still somehow have to prove to the police that you were not just fighting (which is illegal).

The above is fs 776.012.

Below, also in the statute, is:

"(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term "criminal prosecution" includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

(2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.

(3) The court shall award reasonable attorney's fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1). "

So, once you have a situation in which there's no PC to believe that you started or intentionally continued a "fight", you can't be arrested or convicted (guess that's redundant) nor, for practical purposes, sued. Deadly or not.

Above pretty much says what you can or can't do.

Then there's what you are wisest to do. And that's pretty much what you did. And that's what I would have done, too. And I think that's what the legislators expect us to do if possible.

February 3, 2006, 01:50 PM
Kudos on walking away. Engage brain first. I would have done th exact same thing, with my hand on the mace.

Could you or someone knowledgable in the area PM me about the effectiveness of various brands and methods of delivery of pepper spray? Particularly, what is this "Triple action" stuff? Right now, I have some cheapy pepper spray, looking to replace it with something in a stream, and a little more effective, and hand off the cheapy to the girlfriend to get her thinking about these things. We've already had one girl get raped at our school, and a few assaults...

February 3, 2006, 02:14 PM
Thanks for the responses guys, especially invention_45 for looking uo the actual laws. One of the ideas behind starting this thread is to get people thinking about mental preparation. Hesitation leads to delayed response times and usually bad results. You can have your radar on at full power and be fully aware of the situation but you have to be close enough to determine who poses a threat and who is simply a person minding their own business. From now on, my response will be to leave with the mace in one hand and the Surefire in the other. I would probably respond that I don't want any trouble and try to keep the potential threat in my peripheral vision as I walk away.

As for the girl I was with, She is strictly a co-worker and I am not at all interested. Besides, I am a married man and don't need those kinds of problems. By the way, my wife knew where I was and who I was with so I don't have to be worried about her shooting me for cheating on her! :eek: :D


I would not have told him to go bleep himself since there is no benefit in provoking him. My ego can handle empty threats and insults. I mentioned that I "have" a black belt in TDK but I haven't practiced in 12 years. Even so, I went to one of those schools where it seemed like Take My Dough (and give me another belt) than TKD. The instructor was very good but there were testings every 2 months and there were a lot of colored belts. Some schools only test every 6 months and it takes at least 5 years to get a black belt. I got mine in 2 and a half years. I'm willing to bet if I went against a person of equal ability but trained 5 years for a black belt, he would mop the floor with me. One other concern I had was this guy could have been a veteran with some crazy ability. He was older but he seemed pretty fit. Im not going to underestimate him. Besides, he could have had a weapon like you said. Better to just be the bigger man and walk away.


Thanks for the advice. I will probably pack more often from now on. I still think I would not have drawn on him but it would be more reassuring to have had it.

February 3, 2006, 02:24 PM

Right to Defend - You have the right to use force to repel HOSTILE ACTS

Anticipate Attack - You have the right to use force to respond to clear indications of HOSTILE INTENT

Measured Force - When time and circumstances permit, use only the force that is NECESSARY and PROPORTIONAL to protect lives and accomplish the mission.

Protect - Protect with Deadly Force only human life.

This has been drilled into my head over and over and over again, some might recongnize it, but it's what I go off of for all events that come up in everyday life.

February 3, 2006, 03:20 PM
At what point do you do more than wait for the person to attack you? If he follows you or blocks your path of retreat, do you strike pre-emtively or do you risk getting injured and count on your reflexes and reaction time to get you out of the situation?
i've been in a similar situation. been followed, and had my movements limited by traffic. the guy who 'just wanted to shake my hand' was far too close, but presented no weapon, nor was he verbally threatening. but my 'spidey sense' was going berserk so in my mind the situation just was wrong. i didnt draw down, but my hand was gripping my gun in its holster.

to answer your question, seeing how you live in a state where the duty to retreat is nonexistant, doesnt mean that you have to stand your ground in each and every encounter you have. a pre-emptive strike, against someone who is verbally abusive/threatening, but has not yet provided a weapon that you can see, would in my humble opinion, be 'less-justifiable'.
now, if you are cornered, if the subject blocks you in, and it is provable there is no disparity of force (i.e. you are not a 280 lb bodybuilder and your attacker a 90 lb dwarf) then by all means defend yourself. the attacker is already within your comfort zone, and well within range to deploy a weapon of his own and has a good chance of getting the drop on you.
hand to hand combat, i would use a 'less lethal' option, the flashlight to blind, the spray to keep him occupied, while i retreat to a safer location and call 911.

all in all, you did good, and i commend you for having multiple options of defense on hand, even if you werent carrying the gun.

February 3, 2006, 03:35 PM
Yesterday, 08:07 PM #10
Senior Member

Join Date: 03-11-2005
Posts: 785 I guess I am not making my question clear enough.

At what point do you do more than wait for the person to attack you? If he follows you or blocks your path of retreat, do you strike pre-emtively or do you risk getting injured and count on your reflexes and reaction time to get you out of the situation?

Would I have been justified in macing him if he walked up to my face and continued to make verbal threats? I would not shoot him for that, but Mace usually has no long term effects on people other than to make them think twice before mouthing off again. I'm sure the use of less than lethal force have a wider latitude than use of a deadly weapon. I guess even if I was wrong, it would be assault with the mace rather than assault with a deadly weapon.

This has really made me reconsider adding less than lethal defenses to my line of defenses when I carry. At least I can say I did not escalate to deadly force immediately.

Allow me to modify your inquiry ... suppose you are disabled, having had previous extensive neurosurgery, such that a hard blow to the head would definately knock you out and, depending upon placement, might actually kill you. How close to you let the overly verbal threats get ? I cannot move quickly, am blind and partially paralyzed on the left side. How close do I let a person who is threatening me verbally get ? I've pondered this at length. What would be your answer ? I decided, if it reaches the point of drawing, it will include firing, and I do not think I have the luxury of waiting for that "risk getting injured and count on your reflexes and reaction time to get you out of the situation". So how close do you let the verbally aggressive, threatening person get ?

February 3, 2006, 03:42 PM
invention45...I interpert that somehow this new law closed some sort of loophole that would make a victim of an assault liable by defending themselves if they had the ability to flee. I'm not from FL, but did something happen where a mugger was able to sue his victim for injuries when the victim fought back and won the case for big money??? Does anyone know exactly why this law was passed?

Stephen...Your right, I would probably just walk away and not tell the guy off to avoid additional confrontation.

February 4, 2006, 12:07 AM
Hook686 brings up an interesting point. I happen to be pretty severely disabled myself. I won't go into details, but even though I am still 6' 3" and about 260lbs, the nature of my injuries makes me doubt I could hold my own very well, against even a mildly healthy opponent. Is there a different line to be drawn in that scenario? When you CAN'T run, or even walk away very fast? Or is that something for your lawyers to use in your defense? How far do you let it get, knowing your own limitations......

TexiCali Slim
February 4, 2006, 01:02 AM
I personally would say that if you keep a cool head and dont antagonize the other individual you can talk it out 90% of the time. More often than not your pride is what makes you react more than the actual threat. I'd say if they put hands on you or got into your comfort zone you should react accordingly, but allways try and diffuse the situation for the both of you. Every action has a reaction.
-Thanks All

February 4, 2006, 01:47 AM
Derius T,

I believe your and hook686's situation is what they call disparity of force. You are not in the position to defend yourselves in unarmed combat against a person without your physical ailments. In your case, I think you would have less chances of even being charged with a crime if you used force to defend yourself. If it ever got down to it, even a lawyer fresh out of grad school could paint you guys as disabled victims who did the only thing you guys could to protect yourselves. In your case, I would stand my ground and attempt to use less than lethal force first (such as mace or a taser) and then escalate to deadly force if needed.

February 4, 2006, 09:58 AM
You absolutely did the right thing.
As previously stated, he was more than likely drunk/drugged/insane, so why get yourself and your friend in a messy situation with a Sh-----d!
As for that part of Miami Beach is generally pretty safe and I did not want to startle my co-worker.
As far as I'm concerned, there aren't ANY truly safe places!
Anything can happen anywhere.
It just depends on what level of "self protect" mode you choose to be in at any given time time.
And startling a co-worker isn't even on my list of things to worry about!
I carry......PERIOD!
Family/friends/aquaintences/etc will have to accept that as being a part of me.
And most of these people don't even know I carry!
I keep it quiet.
And if it bothers any of them, I will more than like not be spending too much time with them anyway.

fairview mick
February 4, 2006, 11:06 AM
If you have a CCW license, then you know the proper thing to do is to avoid physical confrontation unles it is the very last resort. Walk around the guy, if he starts to follow, walk faster, if he runs after you, then it's probably time to realize that this is going to be confrontational. My first response to that would not be mace, but a very good pepper spray. I believe it's a much greater deterant than mace.

February 6, 2006, 10:54 PM
I agree 100% with TexiCali Slim and think you did the right thing.

Like Derius_T I too am disabled and would be hard pressed to defend myself in a physical confrontation, in fact I could not even run away! If it ever came to the point that lethal force had to be used the legal system would surely take into consideration one's physical ability to defend one's self. There are those who prey only on the old and disabled because they are such an easy mark.

A few years ago I was in the local Mickey D's one morning and these two BG scumbags come in, looking like they had been up all night, they were dirty, smelly and looked like trouble right from the get-go. They started MFng the counter girl and one hit her in the face with a sandwich because he didn't like it, then one guy started harassing some guy with his wife and small kid telling him he was going to Fng kill him while the other threw stuff all over the restaurant. I was standing at the other end of the counter with a large black coffee with the lid off, and we all know how hot McDonald's coffee is! I told the other counter girl to quickly give me another large black coffee minus the lid. Mind you now I walk with a cane but I was carrying my Glock 27, but figured when these guys approached me a hot coffee in the face would work better then shooting these a-holes in a crowded restaurant. Also, if you know how to use it, the cane can be a great weapon! Well, as it turned out a few seconds later the cops were there and not so politely escorted those punks out and I went quietly on my way and I never did pay for the coffee!

DasBoot sez:
I carry......PERIOD!
Family/friends/acquaintances/etc will have to accept that as being a part of me.
And most of these people don't even know I carry!
I agree 1000%. Most of the time my wife doesn't even know I'm carrying.

February 7, 2006, 01:35 AM
i'm not reading all this, i'd just like to respond to the original post... but i think even the thought of needing a gun in the situation is dangerous. i can't see any reason for deadly force. unless you're extremely sheltered, you know the homeless can be like that, and that most of them aren't playing with a full deck. minding your own business and continuing on is all you need. i would only engage deadly force against an equally matched threat... i'd return fists for fists with almost every homeless person i've seen because they're simply not in well-nourished, athletic shape, and i don't think i could live with myself for doing grievous harm onto someone who wasn't entirely in control of their situation, regardless of whether or not that got them into trouble.

i'm not saying there's no case where someone like this would not force you to defend yourself with lethal force. but i think you should be especially careful. it is this sort of attitude to immediately go hot when nothing more than words or a few meaningless gestures are exchanged that gives the level-headed gunners a bad name.

February 7, 2006, 08:59 AM
Generally: I have had some...er...trouble lately with a stalker. So, for that reason, I keep my eye on the statutes. So, Mikey, I'm sorry, but I don't know why the law was changed.

I can tell you that, since I was (and still am) in a situation that could easily call on me to use deadly force, I was disturbed by the possibility of resulting criminal/civil action, both of which are pricey, even if I win. Maybe enough other people thought the same way and just raised enough hell to get the law changed.

Hook: This is my best guess about your situation. First, since you are in a wheelchair and your assailant presumably isn't, it's pretty unlikely that any judge, policeman, DA, or jury would consider you capable of retreat against anyone determined to hurt you. Also, you don't have many options between no force and deadly force.

As an example, let's say a small angry woman is standing at the sidewalk and I'm at my front door and it's not locked. She shows a knife and threatens to use it on me. I can't shoot her unless she's starting toward me and I would probably continue yelling at her to stop till she's halfway to me (about 15 feet) before I started shooting. I could also try to go inside quickly and lock the door.

In the same situation, you are probably justified to shoot the second she turns and starts in your direction. It's unlikely you can get inside and lock the door in time.

Another example, same woman but not showing a knife is 15 feet from me. She tells you she has a knife and is going to kill/hurt me. There is a witness to all this. I would probably at least have to loudly command her to get away from me and see how she reacts before I shoot. Since I could possibly run away, I don't have to by law, but depending on the exact curcumstances, might try.

You could probably shoot her as soon as she makes her intentions known. You cannot effectively run away.

WARNING: I'm not a lawyer. But if I were on a jury that's how I would compare the two situations. Actually, if I were on a jury, an aggressor would be very hard pressed to make me vote to convict a victim who shot him/her, regardless of any disparity of strength or ability.

I'm basing my comments on FL law and on what I seem to hear is the average law in other states.

February 7, 2006, 04:58 PM
Dont know if this is relevant to this thread but here in SD just today a bill left
committee to allow deadly force w/o requirement to retreat if you feel life is in danger.I believe it has always been generally accepted here that deadly force is justified in those situations its simply being codified so some overzealous States Attorney can't charge a civilian for a justified shooting.Bought Time!As far as the scenario described I believe a cautious retreat would be the best option,being disabled though I wouldnt be able to retreat far at which point more forceful persuasion would be required.:o