• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

Justifying self-defense, defense of others, and the use of force in law enforcement

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Robert Leider
Abstract:
While the permissibility of self-defense may seem obvious, philosophers and legal theorists have had difficulty creating a complete and sound philosophical justification. The right of self-defense has odd contours: in some dimensions, the right is broad, while in others, very narrow. Current theories have difficulty justifying both aspects. Rights-based theories, specifically, can justify the broad permission to use force, but they have trouble explaining the extensive restrictions on exercising the right. Making matters even more complicated, the breadth of one's self-defense right can vary. Law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity, unlike private citizens, never have a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Philosophers generally have ignored such complications. In this dissertation, I demonstrate how a rights-based account can explain the broad and narrow nature of the right of self-defense. Utilizing concepts from both moral and political theory, I justify the traditional limitations on the right of self-defense, including the necessity and imminence requirements. I argue that unnecessary force interferes with aggressors' right to due process of law and usurps the authority of the state to adjudicate rights-claims and other disputes. Drawing from Kant, I also argue that individuals lack authority to vindicate their rights. The right of self-defense is a supplementary mechanism by which defenders preserve their right to seek justice in a court of law. I argue that the positive permission to use force derives from three interests: (1) protection of individual autonomy, autonomy-based rights, and respect for persons; (2) preservation of the ability to seek a full (or almost full) judicial remedy to vindicate a violation of one's rights; and (3) protection of the public peace and security. I argue that unjust aggression, unlike other violations of rights, may be resisted with violence because of the extensive harm to one's person that can result and the inability to seek judicial redress. I also define and justify the proportionality requirement and demonstrate how that requirement is consistent with a theory justifying self-defense based on protecting autonomy and autonomy-based rights. Finally, I apply my theory to non-core cases, including the expanded rights of law enforcement officers.

T ABLE OF C ONTENTS

C HAPTER 1:

I NTRODUCTION AND J USTIFICATIONS AND E XCUSES ................................... 1

1.1:

Introduction.............................................................................................................. 1

1.2: Justifications and Excuses....................................................................................... 8

1.2.1: A Brief History of the Legal Terrain.................................................................... 8

1.2.2: Conceptual Questions Concerning th e Definition and Use of the Terms........... 10

1.2.3: My Use of Justification and Excuse................................................................... 14

1.3: Objective/Subjective Distinc tion and Putative Self-Defense................................ 18

1.4: Conclusion............................................................................................................. 28

C HAPTER 2:

D IFFICULTIES WITH C URRENT T HEORIES OF S ELF -D EFENSE ...................... 30

2.1: Introduction............................................................................................................ 30

2.2: Rights Theories...................................................................................................... 31

2.2.1: Right to Life........................................................................................................ 31 2.2.2: Kadish and the Right to the Law’s Protection.................................................... 45

2.3: Utilitarian Theories................................................................................................ 49

2.3.1: Act Utilitarian..................................................................................................... 49

2.3.2: Rule Utilitarian................................................................................................... 55

2.3.3: Lesser Evils Generally........................................................................................ 58

2.4: Wasserman’s Forced Choice Theory..................................................................... 61

viii

2.5: Doctrine of Double Effect...................................................................................... 66

2.5.1: First Criterion...................................................................................................... 6 8

2.5.2: Fourth Criterion.................................................................................................. 70

2.5.3: Third Criterion.................................................................................................... 71

2.5.4: Second Criterion................................................................................................. 75

2.6: Conclusion............................................................................................................. 85

Chapter 3: P OLITICAL P HILOSOPHY AND L IMITATIONS ON THE R IGHT OF S ELF -D EFENSE ... 87

3.1: Introduction............................................................................................................ 87

3.2: The State as the Substitute for Private Violence: Necessity and Imminence....... 90

3.2.1: Redistributing Harms without a Neutral Judge................................................... 91

3.2.2: Do Defenders Have Authority to Vindicate their Rights?.................................. 98

3.2.3: Self-Defense in Civil Soci ety Must be a Narrow Right.................................... 100

3.3: Political or Moral Considerations: What Grounds the Imminence Requirement? .. 103

3.3.1: Ferzan’s Counterargument................................................................................ 103

3.3.2: Kaufman and Natural Law Theory................................................................... 114

3.3.3: Synthesizing Moral and Political Justifications................................................ 116

3.4: Combining a Liberty Right with Disabilities/Immunities: Responding to Objections from Rodin, Kadish, and Finkelstein........................................................................... 122

3.4.1: Liberty Right Plus an Immunity....................................................................... 122

3.4.2: Can a Liberty Right Alone Justif y the Moral Obligation Argument?.............. 137

3.5: Conclusion........................................................................................................... 144

ix

Chapter 4: G ROUNDING THE R IGHT OF S ELF -D EFENSE ................................................ 146

4.1: Introduction.......................................................................................................... 146

4.2: The Three Criteria as INUS Conditions.............................................................. 149

4.3: The Rights Infringed by Violence Reconsidered................................................. 153

4.3.1:

Value of Autonomy........................................................................................... 154

4.3.2: Autonomy and Violence................................................................................... 156

4.3.3: Autonomy and Defending Prope rty: A Brief Discussion................................ 165

4.3.4: Illegitimacy of Inte rference with Autonomy or Autonomy-based Rights........ 167

4.4: Vindicating Rights............................................................................................... 169

4.4.1: Kant and Natural Law Theorists, Revisited...................................................... 169

4.4.2: Self-Defense and Vindicating Rights............................................................... 172

4.5: Creating the Moral Asymmetry........................................................................... 176

4.5.1: Culpable Aggression......................................................................................... 176

4.5.2: All Aggression, including “Innocent Aggressors”........................................... 183

4.6: Objections and Proportionality............................................................................ 194

4.7: Autonomy, Rape, and Deadly Force ...................................................................... 200

4.8: Conclusion........................................................................................................... 204

C HAPTER 5:

A PPLYING M Y T HEORY OF S ELF -D EFENSE ............................................... 205

5.1: Introduction.......................................................................................................... 205

5.2: Use of Force in Defense of Others....................................................................... 206

5.2.1: Who May Come to a Victim’s Aid................................................................... 207

x

5.2.2: Whose Shoes Matter?....................................................................................... 211

5.3: Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers and Other Persons Making Arrests ..... 221

5.4: Bystanders............................................................................................................ 228

5.5: Final Thoughts: Property De fense and Future Research.................................... 238

B IBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................................................................. 243

1 C HAPTER 1:

I NTRODUCTION AND J USTIFICATIONS AND E XCUSES

1.1. Introduction The right of self-defense, 1 or (more accurately) the right of private defense, is the permission by which a person, in order to pres erve his or another person’s life, body, health, or property may threaten, injure, or ki ll another being (or damage or destroy that person’s property) who, at leas t in some relevant way, is causally related to (but not necessarily morally responsible for) a threat of future harm against the defender, the defender’s property, or another person or th at person’s property. We classify these actions as moral notwithstanding general prohibi tions against causing harm to others. At first glance, without any deep re flection, self-defense’s legitimacy is as self-evident as the AAA1 syllogism. Most people (and, indeed, many philosophers) simply see an individual under an unjust and willful attack from an adversary and conclude that the victim has the right to fight back and protect his life. Yet, with further thought, the right of self-defense remains an odd and, in many ways, paradoxical right. The ab ility to resolve disputes peac efully and to ensure, within its jurisdiction, peace and security constitute core functions of any sovereign authority and at least part of its rais on d'être. Without, generally speaking, peaceful resolution of disputes, a state of war would ensue, ther eby abrogating the conveniences of having a government. Here we see a paradox: why does a political body, constituted ( inter alia )

1 Through most of the dissertation, my use of the term “self-defense” includes, mutatis mutandis , other forms of private defense, such as defense of others or defense of property. In Chapters 4 and 5, I will begin to analyze self-defense separately from these other forms of private defense.

2 to resolve disputes among the people in its ju risdiction in a civilized manner, expressly authorize those people, in cer tain well-defined circumstances , to engage in violence? Answering this fundamental que stion of self-defense will shed light on many aspects of this right. Resolving this paradox, for instan ce, will explain and justify the traditional limitations on the right of self-defense, including imminence, proportionality, and necessity. It will also explain the additional authority given to individuals acting with the authority of a sovereign (e .g., law enforcement officers), and why those who live in a state of nature have a wider permission to use force than those who live within civil society. In short, no theory of self-defense can be complete without taking account of the rights and obligations of, and the relationships between, a potential victim, his attacker, bystanders (if any), society genera lly, and the governing authority. Consider the following six cases of self -defense, all of which (unlike too many cases in the literature) 2 have some basis in real-life possibilities: (A) Floyd walks home after getting o ff work. Unbeknownst to him, his arch-nemesis, Randolph, is in tow n, and holding a grudge, Randolph aims to kill him. Knowing that Floyd walks the same way every day from work, Randolph waits for him to begin his walk, at which point Randolph corners him and attempts to shoot h im. Floyd, left with no alternative, pulls out a pistol and kills him.

(B) The same scenario as (A), except that Randolph’s gun is loaded with defective cartridges. If Floyd attemp ts to run, he will successfully escape

2 Paul Robinson notes that philosophers often create bizarre hypothetical examples that have little practical value. Paul H. Robinson, Justification Defenses in Situations of Unavoidable Uncertainty: A Reply to Professor Ferzan , 22 L AW &

P HIL .

775,

781-82

(2005). I share his general distaste for bizarre examples when discussing hypotheti cal cases of self-defense. These hypothetical exampl es distort the cases by removing key elements (such as inherent uncertainty) of any real defensive case, and these distortions may affect our intuitions on these cases. For this reas on, I avoid using them in this dissertation wherever possible.

3 before Randolph can reload. Floyd, obviously not knowing this, pulls out his pistol and shoots him.

(C) The same scenario as (A), except Randolph has a severe mental illness and therefore cannot grasp normal conceptions of right and wrong conduct. Randolph harbors a grudge against Floyd because Randolph believes that Floyd is the human incarn ation of Satan, and by killing him, Randolph believes he will end all th e evil in the world. Floyd defends himself, as in (A).

(D) Jane is walking down the street . As she walks, someone grabs her and drags her into a secluded ally. Th ere, he threatens her saying he only wishes to rape her, and that if she does not resist, she will not be killed. Jane believes him but fights back anyway and kills her attacker.

(E) Sam, an obsessive Deputy United States Marshal, always “gets his man.” In this case, he pursues Richard, a fugitive who is wanted on numerous violent felony warrants. 3 Richard is stubborn and ruthless; he vows never to let anyone capture him alive. Richard’s ruthlessness does not deter Sam, and he continues to h unt him. Finally finding Richard, he attempts to effectuate an arrest, but during the arrest attempt, Richard pulls out a gun and an extended shootout ensues. Sam may desist from the shootout at any time; if he does this , no one will be hurt, but he will not arrest Richard. Alternatively, he may continue to pursue the arrest, knowing that this will likel y lead to someone being killed. Sam chooses the latter, and he kills Rich ard in the ensuing gun battle.

(F) Jane starts slapping Jack, who gr abs her arms and pushes her away to prevent her from hitting him.

Although all of these cases have significant diffe rences, they all share certain similarities: First, and most significantl y, all of the defenders face unjustified threats and, except in (C), they face unjustif ied threats from morally culpable attackers.

Secondly, all defenders were in imminent danger of suffering some harm, and, except in (F), a grave harm.

3 This case, of course, is drawn from T HE F UGITIVE (Warner Bros. 1993).

4 Third, the attacks were unprovoked , at least in the sense that the defenders did not initiate the violence against the defenders (except possibly in (E) as noted below).

Fourth, all (except arguably (D)) involve proportionate responses to the level of the threat; deadly force is only used to re spond to threats of deadly force, and lesser force is used otherwise.

Fifth, except in (B) and to some extent (E), the defenders necessarily must use force to prevent the harm from occurring. In (B), the defender erroneously but reasonably believed the force was necessary to prevent harm.

Notwithstanding these similarities, these cases also contain critical differences. In (B), for instance, although Floyd reasonably beli eves that he is in immediate danger, in fact, he is not. (C) involves a morally innocent (though very dangerous) aggressor, while in (D), Jane uses deadly force to protect he rself against a non-deadly threat. (F) applies the principle of self-defense to threats that do not involve serious bodily injury. In my opinion, though, (E) represents one of the most interesting cases. Many aspects of (E) seem to involve a classical a pplication of normal self -defense: the unjust threat that puts Sam in imminent danger a nd his proportionate response. However, unlike all of the other cases, Sam has an easy possibi lity of escape, whic h he chooses not to pursue. Although nearly everyone would believe Sam is justified, in one sense, he has violated the normal rules of self-defense: he has brought about, in some relevant way, the situation necessitating the use of deadly force. My dissertation has four major compone nts. In Chapter 2, I will reject as incomplete previous theories justifying self-def ense. The first set of theories justifies the permissibility of self-defense by appealing to ri ghts, such as the right to life or the right to

5 the law’s protection. In addition to rights- based accounts, I will examine act and rule utilitarian theories, “lesser ev ils” justification, and Wasserman ’s forced-choice theory. I will end the chapter by arguing that the doc trine of double effect cannot provide an adequate justification for the right of self-defense. After describing why the current major th eories do not adequa tely justify self- defense’s permissibility, I will begin to construc t my own theory. I will begin this project by justifying the traditional limits on self-defense. These limits restrict permissible self- defense to cases where defensive violence is necessary to respond to an imminent threat. Focusing on the drawbacks inherent to exer cising one’s right of self-defense (e.g., the lack of due process of law before harming an aggressor), I argue that self-defense must be only a supplementary mechanism to help vindic ate one’s rights. In addition, I will derive the imminence requirement from ethical and political theory. The imminence requirement derivable solely fr om ethical theory remains w eak and ill-defined, and thus, defenders have a wider permission to use force in a state of nature. But, in civil society, reasons for the imminence requirement grounde d in political theory supplement the purely ethical considerations. As a result, having a sovereign aut hority strengthens the obligations imposed by the imminence requirement. While Chapter 3 defends the limitations on self-defense, Chapter 4 justifies the existence of the right to use force in self-def ense. The right of self-defense derives from three interests: (1) Protection of the following: individual autonomy; autonomy-based rights, such as property possession ; and/or respect for persons as

6 autonomous beings, when these aforementioned interests are illegitimately threatened in fundamental and seve re ways (including by impairing the future pursuit of the good);

(2) Preservation of the ability to seek a full judicial remedy to vindicate a violation of the rights described in (1 ), except that, if the nature of the attack prevents a full judicial re medy of the rights violated, then minimizing the amount of loss one must suffer without a judicial remedy becomes a concomitant interest; and

(3) Protection of the public peace and security.

In Chapter 4, I will begin by explaining why these interests serve as INUS conditions 4 for justifiable violence. Then, I will defend each condition. During the course of this defense, I will consider other issues my theory raises. These issues include the nature of the proportionality requirement in self-defense and the applicab ility of my theory of self- defense to defending property. 5 Finally, I will argue for the moral asymmetry between defenders and aggressors. This moral as ymmetry explains why defenders may use defensive force against aggressors but aggres sors have no right to use defensive force against the defenders’ defensive violence. My argument will draw a moral asymmetry between both culpable and non-culpable aggressors. In Chapter 5, I will elaborate on my theory justifying the permissibility of self- defense by applying that theory to non-core cases. I will begin by examining the right of

4 On the definition of INUS conditions, see J.L. Mackie, Causes and Conditions , 2 A M .

P HIL .

Q.

245,

245

(1965). I have a discussion of these criteria as INUS conditions in § 4.2. 5 Although my theory builds largely on George Fletcher’s work, incorporating the possibility of remedies as an INUS condition for legitimate self-defense attempts to remedy his challenge that a Kantian theory of self-defense lacks a propo rtionality requirement. See G EORGE P.

F LETCHER &

J ENS D AVID O HLIN ,

D EFENDING H UMANITY :

W HEN F ORCE IS J USTIFIED AND W HY 118-21 (2008) (objecting to Kantian/autonomy-based theories justifying self-defense because they lack any proportionality requirement).

7 bystanders to come to a victim’s defense. Two major issues will be discussed: first, whether anyone may come to a victim’s aid, or whether that right shou ld be restricted to those having a special relationship (e.g., pa rent or child) with the victim; and second, whether the alter ego rule or the reasonable belief standard should apply to bystanders who intervene in someone’s defense. 6 In the next section, I will examine in depth case (E), which involves the use of force by law enforcement officers and others with powers of arrest. I will argue that sovereign author ities have the power in certain circumstances to expand the right of self-d efense by eliminating the duty to retreat for those making arrests. One goal in this sect ion will be to demonstrate that my theory of self-defense, by drawing from both ethical and political theor y, can explain and justify the different rules applicable to those with authority to make a rrests. After discussing the power of a state to expand the right of self-defense, I will discuss the rights and obligations of defenders and bystanders, when defenders’ exercise of self-defense endangers bystanders. I conclude that bystanders must accept some increas e in risk of harm to their persons when someone defends himself. But defenders ha ve obligations to minimize the risks they impose on third-parties. In my view, the cu rrent law correctly strikes the balance: defenders may put bystanders at risk provi ded they do not impose such risk in a criminally reckless or negligent manner. 7 Defenders have an excuse, but not a justification, for any unintenti onal injuries to bystanders in the course of self-defense,

6 I elucidate each standard in § 5.2.2. 7 As I argue in § 5.4, in assessing recklessness or negligence, one must consider all circumstances, including the emergency circumstances in which such defensive actions take place.

8 provided they do not act recklessly or neg ligently. I will end Chapter 5, and this dissertation, with some final thoughts on the right of indivi duals to defend property and suggestions for future research on questions that this dissertation leaves unanswered. 1.2. Justifications and Excuses Before discussing any theory of self-defen se, it is helpful to clarify two concepts and their relation to self-defense. These concep ts are justification and excuse in criminal law. The main question is whet her self-defense is properly cla ssified as a justification or an excuse. In §§ 1.2 and 1.3, I will present the major issues in the various debates, and I will indicate where I stand on them. I w ill not give a full-fledged argument for any particular conception, however. 1.2.1. A Brief History of the Legal Terrain In ancient English law, the execution of a criminal, the killing of a felon incident to attempting his capture, and th e killing of an outlaw were ex amples of fully justifiable homicide. 8 In contrast, a person acting in self -defense “deserve[d] but need[ed] a pardon,” 9 which, while initially (and always tech nically) granted as a matter of grace, soon were granted as a matter of right. By Blackstone’s time, a person acting to prevent a forcible and atrocious felony (e .g., rape or robbery) could jus tifiability kill his attacker; self-defense was merely excused, however, wh en necessary to stop an aggressor during a “sudden affray.” 10 This derived from the theory that even the defender likely engaged in

8

See 2 F REDERICK P OLLOCK &

F REDERIC M AITLAND ,

T HE H ISTORY OF E NGLISH L AW B EFORE THE T IME OF E DWARD I 478 (2d ed. 1899). 9

Id. at 479. 10 4 W ILLIAM B LACKSTONE ,

C OMMENTARIES *173-74.

9 some action to cause or further the fight. 11 Additionally, Blackstone surmises that this may be due to law’s desire to discourage private citizens from killing fellow citizens outside the legal process. 12 Until relatively modern times, even excusable homicide resulted in a fine or forfeiture of some kind. 13

By the nineteenth century, however, both excusable and justifiable homicide resulted in a defendant’s full acquittal. W ith little legal difference, the distinction between justifiable and excusable homici de came under attack as an antiquated formalism and fell into disuse. And when most states merged the two classes of homicide, what little legal di fference existed (e.g., the duty to retreat in ex cusable but not justifiable homicide) simply got codified by indicating when one has a duty to retreat. 14

George Fletcher, in Rethinking Criminal Law , 15 is credited with having revived the legal importance of the two categories. 16 Though excusable and justifiable homicide equally may imply the lack of legal penalties, a major conceptual distinction exists between a justification and an excuse. 17 To see this distinctio n, I must define what one means when he calls an action “justified” or “excused.”

11

See id. at *187. 12

See id.

13

See id. at *188. 14

See 4 W ILLIAM B LACKSTONE ,

C OMMENTARIES ON THE L AWS OF E NGLAND 2372-75 n.1 (William Carey Jones ed., 1976 photo reprint, Bancroft-Whitney 1915) (1769) (note of A.M. Kidd). 15 G EORGE P.

F LETCHER ,

R ETHINKING C RIMINAL L AW (1978). 16 D AVID R ODIN ,

W AR AND S ELF -D EFENSE 27

(2002);

Joshua Dressler, New Thoughts about the Concept of Justification in the Criminal Law: A Critique of Fletcher’s Thinking and Rethinking , 32 UCLA

L.

R EV .

61,

63

(1984). 17

See R ODIN ,

supra note 16, at 27 (quoting, J.L. Austin, A Plea for Excuses , 57 P ROCEEDINGS OF THE A RISTOTELIAN S OC ’ Y 1, 2 (1956)).

10 1.2.2. Conceptual Questions Concerning the Definition and Use of the Terms Unfortunately, there is vi rtually no agreement on what precisely “justification” and “excuse” mean in the context of criminal law. In On the Supposed Priority of Justification to Excuse , Douglas Husak collects several of these proposed definitions. 18

At some level of abstraction, the various defini tions appear fairly similar. A justification shows that “the act was not wrongful,” “not criminal [instead of merely not punishable],” or “that prima facie wrongful and unlawful conduct is not wr ongful or unlawful at all.” 19

Excuses, in contrast, seem to assert that one has committed a wrongful act but does not deserve blame. 20

With these similar definitions in hand, in core cases, it is easy to draw the distinction between justif iable and excusable conduct. 21 Generally, for example, the law prohibits, and it is wrong, to kill another pe rson. It is clearly le gally justifiable (and morally justifiable, in the appropriate circum stances) for an executioner to administer a death sentence to a prisoner lawfully sentenced. 22 On the other hand, insanity does not

18 Douglas Husak, On the Supposed Priority of Justification to Excuse , 24 L AW &

P HIL . 557, 558-59 (2005). 19

Id. (quoting Joshua, Dressler , Michael Moore, and Jeremey Horder , respectively) (internal citations omitted). For the original citations, see id. nn.7, 10-11. 20 Here are some of the definitions Husak collects. Sh aron Byrd: “[A]n excuse . . . not only presupposes the violation of a legal or moral norm, but also the wrongful or unjustified nature of this violation”; Michael Berman: “[A]n excused defendant has committed a crime but is not punishable ”; Michael Moore: “[A]n excuse does not take away our prima facie judgment that an act is wrongful and unlawful; rather it shows that the actor was not culpable in his doing of an admittedly wrongful and unlawful act.” Id. at 558- 59 (internal citations omitted). Husak himself questions whether excused acts are wrongful. See Douglas Husak, The Serial View of Criminal Law Defenses , 3 C RIM .

L.F. 369 (1992). 21

See Kent Greenawalt, The Perplexing Borders of Justification and Excuse , 84 C OLUM .

L.

R EV . 1897, 1899 (1984). 22 4 B LACKSTONE , supra note 10,

at *173-74

11 give someone the right to kill another. A person who, while insane, murders another will be excused from punishment, even though his act is wrongful. Thus, justifications and excuses are two ways in which we free someone for blame for actions that are prima facie wrong. Blaming someone for an action involves looking at both the action and the respons ibility of the agent performing the act. 23 While I will go into a more fine-grained analysis of the definition momentarily, at a minimum, when we call an action “justified” we are saying that the agent deserves no blame because, in the circumstances, the agent had a sufficient reason to undertake the action, and therefore, the action was permissible, not wrong. Excused conduct, in contrast, concedes the wrongfulness of the act 24 but asserts that some feature of the agent (e.g., insanity or immaturity) or th e agent’s circumstances (e.g., ig norance of a certain fact) frees him from blame. 25

Full document contains 264 pages
Abstract: While the permissibility of self-defense may seem obvious, philosophers and legal theorists have had difficulty creating a complete and sound philosophical justification. The right of self-defense has odd contours: in some dimensions, the right is broad, while in others, very narrow. Current theories have difficulty justifying both aspects. Rights-based theories, specifically, can justify the broad permission to use force, but they have trouble explaining the extensive restrictions on exercising the right. Making matters even more complicated, the breadth of one's self-defense right can vary. Law enforcement officers acting in their official capacity, unlike private citizens, never have a duty to retreat before using deadly force. Philosophers generally have ignored such complications. In this dissertation, I demonstrate how a rights-based account can explain the broad and narrow nature of the right of self-defense. Utilizing concepts from both moral and political theory, I justify the traditional limitations on the right of self-defense, including the necessity and imminence requirements. I argue that unnecessary force interferes with aggressors' right to due process of law and usurps the authority of the state to adjudicate rights-claims and other disputes. Drawing from Kant, I also argue that individuals lack authority to vindicate their rights. The right of self-defense is a supplementary mechanism by which defenders preserve their right to seek justice in a court of law. I argue that the positive permission to use force derives from three interests: (1) protection of individual autonomy, autonomy-based rights, and respect for persons; (2) preservation of the ability to seek a full (or almost full) judicial remedy to vindicate a violation of one's rights; and (3) protection of the public peace and security. I argue that unjust aggression, unlike other violations of rights, may be resisted with violence because of the extensive harm to one's person that can result and the inability to seek judicial redress. I also define and justify the proportionality requirement and demonstrate how that requirement is consistent with a theory justifying self-defense based on protecting autonomy and autonomy-based rights. Finally, I apply my theory to non-core cases, including the expanded rights of law enforcement officers.