1. John commits a non-violent crime against Jane.
  2. Jane recorded the crime.
  3. John threatens to kill Jane if she doesn't delete the video.

Can Jane legally use deadly force against John?

  • 1
    Is john brandishing a weapon, or is he significantly larger than jane? Is he actively threatening her (ie hands around her neck, pointing a gun at her), or is he just stating that he will kill her? Does jane perceive herself to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm? Please clarify, in your question, how exactly this threat is being presented.
    – mikem
    Sep 22, 2022 at 8:04

1 Answer 1


Merely the threat under no circumstances give rise to deadly force under the construction of the affirmative defenses of self-defense and necessity in the U.S., and no manifest action or circumstance in this hypo indicate an inevitable serious-harm or lethal attack, therefore there is no basis for any force let alone deadly.

If the threat of serious or deadly harm is manifest and inevitable, necessity and self-defense are both available as affirmative defense; if it isn’t neither of them are, nor is Jane under duty to delete, in fact, (even if unlawfully recorded) deleting it would be destruction of and/or tampering with evidence prohibiting Jane to delete it. (Although, prior to the escalation, Jane could be found to reasonably fear so as to constitute a state of mind depriving her of her free agency under coercion or extortion so as to be able to assert an affirmative defense for deleting the video recording)

If Jane still has the option to delete or verbally indicate to succumb to the threat, the attack was not inevitable because she could have chose to succumb to the threat so a necessity or self-defense is not applicable; when there is only that option to kill to prevent the serious harm or the deadly attack, self-defense or necessity applies. The two cannot at the same time.

  • So the deletion would be a crime, except it would be justified as self-defense?
    – Someone
    Sep 22, 2022 at 7:00
  • 1
    There is really no way for that to happen: The attack is either inevitable other than through deadly force or not. If not, self-defense or deadly force in necessity is not factually applicable. If there is no reasonable subjective perception of inevitability (other than through deadly force) deadly force cannot be used. If that is not the case, Jane would have the duty to keep the evidence — although it could be argued she acted under coercion to delete which would be another affirmative defense.
    – kisspuska
    Sep 22, 2022 at 7:09
  • 1
    @kisspuska The term would be duress, not coercion, but correct.
    – Trish
    Sep 22, 2022 at 7:38

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