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1 UCLA L. Rev. 133 (1953-1954)
Self-Defense Re-Examined

handle is hein.journals/uclalr1 and id is 135 raw text is: Self-Defense Re-Examinedt
In considering the law of self-defense it is important to keep in mind
the distinction between deadly force (force intended or likely to cause
death or great bodily harm) and nondeadly force (force neither in-
tended nor likely to do so). It is also important to distinguish force
which is reasonable from that which is unreasonable. Deadly force
and reasonable force are neither mutually exclusive nor collectively
exhaustive. Deadly force is unreasonable if nondeadly force is obvi-
ously sufficient to avert the threatened harm,' but may be entirely
reasonable under other circumstances. And even nondeadly force is
unreasonable if it is obviously and substantially in excess of what is
needed for the particular defense.2
There are some indications of an original requirement of actual
necessity,8 but they seem to be false conclusions drawn from incom-
plete generalizations. They clearly do not represent the modern com-
mon law of self-defense.' At the other extreme is an occasional hold-
ing to the effect that if the other requirements are satisfied, the
defender will be excused if he acted from an honest belief in the great-
ness and imminence of his peril.5 This was too broad a position and
hence the limitation was added that this belief must be based upon
reasonable grounds., The reasonable belief of the defender under the
tCopyright, 1953, by the author and published with his permission.
* Connell Professor of Law, School of Law, University of California, Los Angeles;
A.B. 1910, University of Kansas; J.D. 1912, Stanford University; S.J.D. 1916,
Harvard University.
lEtter v. State, 185 Tenn. 218, 205 S.W.2d1 (1947).
2 People v. Moody, 62 Cal. App.2d 978 (1943); RESTATEMENT, TORTS §70
(1934). A kick is not a justifiable method of turning a trespasser out of the
house. Wild's Case, 2 Lewin C.C. 214, 168 Eng. Rep. 1132 (1837). Force may
be unreasonable although no weapon is used. State v. Wilson, 196 Wash. 534,
83 P.2d 749 (1938).
3 Scott v. State, 203 Miss. 349, 34 S.2d 718 (1948); Regina v. Smith, 8 Car. and
P. 160, 173 Eng. Rep. 441 (1837); Regina v. Bull, 9 Car. and P. 22, 173 Eng.
Rep. 723 (1839).
'Pond v. People, 8 Mich. 150 (1860); Logue v. Commonwealth, 38 Pa. 265
0 Granger v. State, 13 Tenn. 459 (1830).
6 People v. Syed Shah, 91 Cal. App.2d 722, 205 P.2d 1077 (1949); Morgan v.
but the reasonable apprehension thereof. Harris v. State, 96 Ala. 24, 11 So. 255
(1891); State v. McGreevey, 17 Idaho 453, 105 Pac. 1047 (1909); State v.
Howard, 14 Kan. 173 (1875); People v. Kennedy, 159 N.Y. 346, 54 N.E. 51
(1899); State v. Daw, 99 Mont. 232, 43 P.2d 240 (1935).
If the slayer honestly but unreasonably believes his life to be in danger and
kills in what he assumes to be necessary self-defense, he is guilty of manslaughter
rather than murder. Allison v. State, 74 Ark. 444, 86 S.W. 409 (1904); Popps
[(133 ]

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