Self-defense is a legal term that means that violent action was justified to defend oneself. Most citizens have some misconceptions of that right. So we will see what is allowed by French the law and if unfortunately if you have to use violence, how to justify your reaction.
Remember that violence is to be used as a last resort, but unfortunately it is sometimes the only way to ensure your physical integrity or that of a third person.
Self-defense is governed in France by the Article 122 of the Criminal Code, to be able to use that article there must be :
- in progress: returning to fight back after the contact is broken can be qualified as a new aggression. This condition does not imply that a punch was already thrown, immediate danger is enough. For example, pulling back the fist before a punch, a blade very close to the body or a gun pointed at you.
- unjustified: the action of the police is in some way justified by definition. To rebel against the police even if you think you are in the right is really not a good idea ...
- real: you had to be sure there was a danger. Thus an aggression carried out with a dummy but realistic enough weapon in the considered conditions does not make you leave the framework of the legitimate defense.
And an answer
- necessary: there was no better way to avoid the danger (simple necessity) or there was no other way at all (strict necessity). For example a runaway was too risky, conversely, a bouncer who could simply close the door and who beat an attacker is wrong.
- simultaneous: this is the counterpart of the current aggression. You should not take revenge or use violence to stop a fugitive aggressor.
- proportional: the riposte must be of the same intensity as the attack. This is the most misunderstood point. What matters is the likely outcome of both actions, not their means. It is possible to fight back with a shot against a choke. In both cases the risk is death. However, be careful not to forget the "necessary" aspect of the response, in this example you would have to prove that less violent solutions have failed or were not possible. For example, the attacker was stronger than you is or he has taken too much advantage as you hit the ground.
Moreover, there are two cases where it is up to the aggressor to prove that it was not a question of self-defense: in night break-ins and violent robberies and looting. It does not mean that everything is allowed, just that it will be a little less difficult in front of the judge.
Finally, do not risk your life or that of a loved one because you are afraid of being sued. One can assert his right to live in front of a judge but not with an undertaker.
"Better judged by twelve than carried by six."
We saw the basics on the subject for the french law, but most country have similar principles. You can leave a comment below to say what you think of this article, add what you know of other laws from other countries or if you would like me to develop a particular subject.