Can You Legally Hit Someone Who Provokes You?

By Tedia Gamino

Although an argument between two people may become heated, it doesn’t mean that either person should use force against the other. But is there an instance when it’s legal to hit someone who provokes you?

Can You Legally Hit Someone Who Provokes You?

Under Wisconsin law you have the right to threaten or use force against another person if you’re trying to prevent or stop unwanted physical contact. However, you may only use the amount of force (or the threat of force) that you reasonably believe is needed to prevent or stop contact. You can’t use force that’s intended to, or will likely, kill or seriously harm the individual, unless you believe that that amount of force is needed to save your life or prevent serious injury.

Can the Instigator Claim Self-Defense if They Fight You Back?

If the person who provokes you to defend yourself begins to fight you back, they can’t claim that they’re doing so in self-defense—unless your response to their provocation is so extreme that they reasonably believe their life is in danger, or that they might suffer serious bodily harm. The instigator may not, though, use force that’s intended, or likely, to cause death unless they reasonably believe that they’ve used every means within their power to escape or avoid death, or serious bodily harm, by your hand.

An individual who provokes you to use force against them with the intention of using your response as an excuse to kill you or cause you serious bodily harm doesn’t have the right to claim that their response is in self-defense. The instigator can claim a right to self-defense, however, if they withdraw from a fight with you and make their withdrawal clear.

Can You Use Force to Help Prevent a Suicide?

Wisconsin law allows you to use force against another person to stop them from committing suicide if you reasonably believe that doing so is needed to save their life. This privilege, however, doesn’t permit the use of force that’s intended, or likely, to result in death. (That would defeat the purpose of the suicide intervention).

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About an Assault Charge in Wisconsin?

If you’ve been charged with assault, call our office at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced self-defense lawyers who can provide the guidance you need.

By Attorney Tedia Gamino