Friday, January 02, 2009
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Blog Lecture No. 84: Self defense

Hello class! It's been a while since I last lectured. Since this topic has been bounced around, of all places, the golf scene, I deemed it best to lecture about it now. This will not take long.

So let us begin:

Self defense has been called a justifying circumstance. Just what is a justifying circumstance?

It is a factor in the commission of a crime that completely absolves the criminal from criminal and civil liability.

So what are the requisites a criminal needs to claim self defense?

According to the Article 11 (1) of the Revised Penal Code:

Anyone who acts in defense of his person or rights, provided that the following circumstances concur;

First. Unlawful aggression;

Second. Reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it;

Third. Lack of sufficient provocation on the part of the person defending himself.

What is unlawful aggression? Can you give an example?

To claim the first circumstance, the accused must be attacked by unlawful aggression. This requisite is first and foremost. In the words of my criminal law professor: "If there is no unlawful aggression, there is nothing against which one can rightfully say he was defending himself; there is nothing to prevent or repel."

The aggression must be unlawful. This generally means it must be unjustified or unprovoked. So if a person suffers from a fist blow from a man he insulted first, there is no unlawful aggression because he provoked it in the first place.

Please explain the requisite "reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel it."

This depends on the situation. But the key thing to understand is the equality between the unlawful aggression and the means the criminal uses to repel it.

For example, there may be no balance between shooting a person who just come at you with his bare fists, unless the one with the gun only had that gun to defend himself and he did not kill the assailant, only injured him enough to flee the scene. There may a reasonable balance between using your 10th dan Martial Arts skills in just hurting a person enough to flee and escape being injured himself. It is not as simple as a mathematical equation.

Again, the judge must weigh the situation, taking into account all circumstances of the case.

Now ask yourself. Is there balance in mauling a 56 year old golfer and his 14 year old son with armed bodyguards, even if that 56 year old was allegedly brandishing a golf club?

What is lack of sufficient provocation?

The accused must show that he did not provoke the unlawful aggression in the first place. In our example, the accused gave sufficient provocation, just to trigger the argument because he violated golf etiquette.

Any final thoughts?

The claim self defense is an implied admission of the criminal act, except that the accused is justified the committing the crime. In a practical trial scenario, there will be what is called a "reverse trial" when it is now the accused who will present evidence of self defense first, ahead of the prosecution (since the accused already admitted the act).

Also, it now becomes the burden of the accused to prove his innocence. The presumption of innocence is not applicable if the accused claims this justifying circumstance in evading criminal and civil liability.

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