IANAL and choose this very basic, if not obvious, example to setup the question.

Bob is tried for shooting a person. Bob pleads innocence in the form of self defense: the other person drew his pistol and pointed it at Bob.

The findings of fact reveal:

  • Bob was an armed bank-robber at the time of the shooting
  • Security video show the security guard drew his service revolver and Bob fired: striking the guard

Is there a concise legal phrase or word that communicates the notion that because of Bob's action (robbing a bank), Bob is unable to invoke self-defense?

Possibly: Bob lacks / forfeited standing to invoke self-defense?

1 Answer 1


The terminology used may vary some by jurisdiction, but in many it will be said that Bob provoked the confrontation, or that Bob was the aggressor, or that Bob was engaged in a felony and so cannot claim self-defense.

This fact patter is highly unlikely to arise in real lie, because if Bob has even a half-competent lawyer, the issue of self-defense, sure to fail, will not be raised. Doing so only wastes the court's time, and may well make them think worse of Bob, which may cost him.

In less open-and-shut cases, the general rule is that one who provokes a confrontation, or who is the aggressor, may not claim self-defense. But the exact rule varies by jurisdiction, and the line will be drawn in different ways in different jurisdictions. In some one who seeks a confrontation may be denied a right of self-defense.

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