PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A brutal beating was captured on surveillance video last month. It showed a woman being kicked and dragged down Broad Street.
The victim isn’t alone. Sadly, attacks like this one happen all too frequently.
So what right, as a victim of a violent attack, do you have to fight back?
Eyewitness News spoke with a legal expert who says what you may consider self-defense could actually put you behind bars.
The heart races, pupils dilate, blood rushes to the brain and muscles and before the victim of a violent attack even realizes it, the body has entered into flight-or-fight mode.
“I’m probably going to attack back,” said Logan resident Sarah Johnson.
“I’d probably attack back but just out of self-defense, though,” Center City resident Anthony Simone said.
Self-defense is more complicated than you might think.
“The law is basically stacked against you,” attorney Tom Kline said.
Klein has lived in Center City for his entire adult life.
“I have never, in over 40 years, seen the streets more dangerous,” Kline said.
What right does a victim of violence really have?
“You cannot use deadly force if deadly force is not needed. You cannot even use non-deadly force unless the circumstances require it,” Kline said.
Basically, vengeance, by law, is not self-defense.
If someone demands your wallet without a threat, you don’t have the legal right to hit them.
But what if a victim feels like the situation is life or death? Well, you need to prepare to prove it.
“If you use deadly force, you may end up being a criminal defendant. You may end up being the one in jail,” Kline said.
In Delaware and New Jersey, the law requires a victim to retreat if they can. In Pennsylvania, that’s not the victim’s duty, even in a public place.
But Kline says, if possible, flight rather than fight is your best defense.
“The law basically tells you that your best option is to run,” Kline said.
If this sounds like the victim is powerless, think again. You have the right to sue that attacker and possibly be awarded their assets, even if the attacker is a minor.
“You would have a potential claim against the parent for negligent supervision,” Kline said.