I read here that the First Amendment allows you to say whatever you want to someone without the government interfering, so long as your words do not pose an imminent threat of harm to another (and a couple other exceptions).

So what are those keywords that give you a "green light" for punching ?

Can punching be justified ? Let's say somebody says horrible things about my wife, does that give me a "green light" to punch ? What is the "punching power" limit ? Is "slap in the face" okay ? LOL

  • Possible duplicate of this
    – user3851
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 20:45
  • Will Smith sends his regards.
    – user0306
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 6:14

2 Answers 2


Note: Similar Q&A here.

The only legal justifications for that I am aware of are:

  1. Defense (especially )
  2. To prevent a more serious felony
  3. To effect a lawful

Although "fighting words" are not protected speech, AFAIK they do not justify a violent act (even though they are defined as words likely to provoke one). But words constituting – i.e., creating a reasonable apprehension of an imminent threat that justifies the use of force, as enumerated above – can.


There are no words that "green light" a punch.

  • 1
    Not even "would you like a boxing match"?
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 22:07
  • So how are boxing matches legally held?
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 22:17

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