Is there ever a case where your legal duty to care/not harm someone causes you to not be able to legally retaliate against non-institutionalised harm?

Examples do not have to be specific to any jurisdiction or group of people, they can include such things as the attacker being a minor, the attacker lacking intent, etc.

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    Could you define your terms? Particularly how you define Harm in general and what is meant by non-institutionalized harm verses institutionalized harm? – hszmv Mar 26 '19 at 19:59
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    It isn't clear to mean that you really mean "retaliate" when you use that word in your question. "Retaliate" means to attack someone to punish someone (not necessarily the person person who hurt you) because they attacked or harmed you, in a manner that does not constitute self-defense from imminent harm. As noted below, there is almost never a legal right for anyone but a sovereign entity to retaliate against anyone physically (e.g. via assault or homicide). In a modern state retaliation is the exclusive privilege of the government (with very narrow exceptions like self-help hacking). – ohwilleke Mar 27 '19 at 3:01
  • I ask because the title question sounds like it might be about true self-defense, but it isn't clear. Preemptively attacking someone who has bullied you in the past is retaliation, not self-defense. Responding to a bully in the process of attacking you is self-defense. Either could be an effort to "escape non-institutionalized harm". – ohwilleke Mar 27 '19 at 3:07

There is pretty much never a right to retaliate against harm to oneself, even blatantly unlawful harm.

There is a right to defend oneself and others. One can use force to stop someone from inflicting unlawful or unjustified harm, or to prevent someone from inflicting such harm when the harm is imminent. One is not permitted to use more force than is "reasonably required" under the actual circumstances. This is true in pretty much every jurisdiction that i know of. The details on how much force will be considered "reasonable" will vary.

In some jurisdictions there is, under some circumstances, a s"duty to retreat". This generally means that if a person attacked can avoid the harm by fleeing with reasonable safety, that person must do so rather than using force in self-defense. In some jurisdictions this "duty to retreat" applies id the victim is attacked in public, but not in the victim's own home.

The right to self defense does not apply when the "attacker" is an agent of the state acting lawfully. For example, a prison guard taking a condemned prisoner to a death sentence cannot be attacked on the grounds that the prisoner is engaging in self defense.

In theory a police officer engaging an excessive force, particularly unjustified deadly force, may be resisted in self-defense. But courts are quite reluctant to find such resistance justified in practice. There generally must be very clear evidence of egregious misconduct for the court to rule for the non-police person in such a case.

Note that "self" defense can equally be defense of another person. Pretty much all the same rules apply.

Self defense applies no matter who the attacker is, but that force is reasonable may vary depending on the attacker. Only such force as is reasonably required to stop or prevent the harm may be used with a justification of self-defense.

  • Addendum to your police officer theory, but there was a recent case in Maryland where the police were serving a lawful warrant to the wrong address in the middle of the night. The home owner was a gun owner and shot one of the officers who entered the residence first (mercifully, the officer survived). The home owner was not prosecuted because the cops had no legal right to be in the house and the home owner did have a legal right to self defense against intruders under Castle Doctrine. Duty to flee only applies in a public setting. Castle Doctrine applies in a private setting. – hszmv Mar 26 '19 at 19:39
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    @hszmv That the "Castle Doctrine" applies in a private setting is i believe true in Maryland, but it is not true everywhere. In some 'stand your ground" states there is no duty to retreat anywhere. And rules in non-US jurisdictions may be different yet. Also the "Castle Doctrine" may not apply if a person is in someone else's home, not his or her own home. Also note that a decision not to prosecute is not always the same as saying that the act was legally justified. Sometimes a prosecutor will drop a weak or unpopular case, even if the law is on the prosecutor's side. – David Siegel Mar 26 '19 at 20:19
  • Typically self-defense cases do hinge on having the legal right to be in a place, so the Babysitter, upon hearing that the caller is inside the house, is well within her right to defend herself and the children, even though the house is not her legal residence. She's an invited guest, the mystery caller presumably lacks an invitation, or certainly would lack it once his intent to do harm was revealed. – hszmv Mar 26 '19 at 20:29
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    @The_Sympathizer One may use such force as is reasonably needed to stop harm in progress, and to prevent clearly imminent harm, but no more. That is the line, and it follows the classic "reasonable person" standard -- what would a reasonable person do in the circumstances. – David Siegel Mar 27 '19 at 6:03
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    @The_Sympathizer: For example, in the United States, if you're in a Stand your ground state OR you cannot flee, shooting someone with a lawfully owned firearm will constitute self-defense, to the extent that the attacker is no longer a threat. If he collapses to the ground, you don't get to put a bullet into his skull to kill him, because you could reasonably remove yourself from the situation. – hszmv Mar 27 '19 at 13:49

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