Here's the situation. There's a disagreement between two individuals, Bob and Dave. Bob decides to get a gun, and then proceeds to taunt Dave. Dave becomes angry starts yelling, Dave intends to kill bob, and in a rage cocks his fist back to strike him. Bob immediately shoots Dave in the face killing him. Bob lives in a stand your ground state.

Would self defense apply to this situation? If Bob and Dave had a disagreement spread out over months, and Bob shoots Dave at the end through a similar situation would self defense apply? How severe of sentencing would Bob receive? How severe of sentencing would Dave receive if Bob let him kill him?

  • 3
    Can you pick a specific state? "Stand your ground state" isn't specific enough as those states don't all have identical laws. Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:08
  • 2
    I touch on the situation in Wisconsin law in my answer here (last paragraph/quote): law.stackexchange.com/a/55783/32651
    – Ryan M
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 5:20
  • 1
    Related Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 11:38
  • Is there a reason to assume Dave intends to kill Bob? Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 11:53
  • It looks very much like Bob baited Dave with the intent to kill Dave "in self defense". That would probably be murder. There was a recent case where a home owner tricked two young, unarmed burglars into entering his home in order to shoot them "in self defense". Both died, and he was sentenced for double murder.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


It depends as proving your intention to provoke them into this can be non-protected speech under fighting words doctrine if Bob knew it would specifically provoke Dave to violence. If Bob instigated the altercation under these circumstance (both knowing and intending to provoke Dave to violence) he may be looking at his own assault charge. This would be especially true if Bob was threatening Dave with violence, prompting the outburst.

Since no indication of what was said, under U.S. Law speech is always assumed protected until proven otherwise, so self-defense would be a viable defense to killing Dave, assuming Bob was saying provokative, but not personally insulting or threatening things looking to get a reaction from Dave. Again, the context of the taunt, not merely the words said, are critical so the answer can't be provided without the offending statement. As a general rule, the general jurisprudence errs on the assumption that Dave should have been mature enough to handle the insult without resorting to violence.

Stand Your Ground plays little importance in the scenario other than removing the question of "Duty to Flee".

If this was a successful self-defense, Bob would not be sentanced. If not, he could be give assault to murder chargers depending on the nature of how it went down. In either situation, nothing justifies Dave's violent reaction to the taunt so were he to survive, he'd likely get punished for assault and battery up to and including 1st degree murder, though 2nd degree might also be more likely to sway the jury.

It should be pointed out that Assault can happen without actually physically harming someone. Assault is merely the threat of physical violence or acting in a manner to convey such a threat. Battery is a seperate charge for actual physical violence.

This is also a 30,000 feet overview as a more specific description of the scenario could give a more percise answer.

  • I thought fighting words do not remove the first amendment defense, usually? I thought it was along the lines of yelling fire in a theater, which is legal, as the Supreme Court case making it illegal was overturned. In other words it's something that gets countered with more speech, or leaving the room in this case.
    – ZeroPhase
    Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 11:34
  • @ZeroPhase: No, fighting word doctrine and "shouting fire in a crowded theater" (AKA True Threat) are still not protected under the First Amendment (though in the case Fighting words, the definition has been narrowed into near obsolescence depending on the legal scholar). The cases that overturned this decision overturned the standards needed to prove that which was said was unprotected (From "Clear and Present Danger" to "Imminent Lawless Action"). True Threats are actually very well defined... calling 911 for a prank is not protected speech, for example.+
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 12:40
  • @ZeroPhase: Additionally, "Shouting Fire In a Crowded Theater" is legal if there is actually a fire or a good faith belief that there is a fire. It's only illegal if there isn't an actual threat that requires immediate action (i.e. Calling the fire department, panicing the theater goers, calling an evacuation of the building, disrupting the show, ect.).
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 12:43

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