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date: 18 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the unresolved issues surrounding self-defense, both legally and in the public sphere. Focusing on U.S. self-defense law, it examines controversial issues such as the status of self-defense as an excuse or justification, “imminence” in battered women’s cases, and whether honest, rather than reasonable, belief constitutes a defense. After a historical overview of self-defense, the chapter outlines the basic elements of self-defense that remain contested, such as whether self-defense is a subset of a more general necessity defense or is governed by “subjective” or “objective” standards. Attention then turns to self-defense’s doctrinal distinction from other kinds of defensive force claims, especially duress and necessity. The relevance of threat and proportionality in maintaining a self-defense claim is highlighted. Finally, the chapter discusses two contemporary issues that have an impact on self-defense law and are likely sites of public and legal contestation: feminism and “stand your ground” laws.

Keywords: self-defense, United States, imminence, necessity, duress, threat, proportionality requirement, self-defense law, feminism, stand your ground laws

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