Our Voice: Road Rage or Self-Defense?

Self-defense isn’t always a good defense to a violent crime. In our society, people can’t walk around shooting someone every time they get scared. But we’ve all heard of situations where the use of force, even a gun, in self-defense was justified. I think a recent case is an excellent example of the unjustified use of a gun.

A few weeks ago, Carl Mintz was arrested for shooting Faith Said with a pistol on a busy Farmington Hills street. Prosecutors claim it was a case of road rage. Mintz claims he acted in self-defense. The Detroit Free Press reported that Said approached Mintz’s vehicle at a red light to confront him about his erratic driving. Said’s passenger may have also approached the vehicle. While Mintz was still in his vehicle, they began yelling at each other. Even though the light turned green, Mintz didn’t drive away, but continued to argue with Said.

Said claims that as he turned to walk away, Mintz shot him in the arm. The Free Press also reported that Mintz is licensed to carry a concealed weapon. He is charged with one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm, with an alternate count of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of felony firearm.

As everyone knows a gun is a deadly weapon, its no surprise that the law requires that a person honestly and reasonably believe that their life is in immediate danger or there is a threat of serious bodily harm before they are permitted to use it against another person in self-defense. Also, if the person can safely avoid the use of deadly force, they must attempt to avoid using it.

In this case, Mintz may have honestly believed his life was in immediate danger when Said approached his car. But that belief certainly wasn’t reasonable, because Said was unarmed and didn’t attempt to pull Mintz from the vehicle. He merely walked to the vehicle and argued with him. If Said was retreating, that fact is especially important, because at that point, any fear of danger should’ve decreased. Additionally, when the light turned green, Mintz could’ve driven away, but he chose to stay. As a result, it’s inconceivable that he could rely upon self-defense to avoid criminal liability for the shooting

philip@ambroselawgroup.com

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2 Comments

Filed under Our Voice - Op/Ed, Self Defense

2 responses to “Our Voice: Road Rage or Self-Defense?

  1. Inconceivable is a pretty strong word, so I’ll offer a little counter-point to Phil’s opinion.

    To determine whether a person’s use of deadly force in self-defense was reasonable, the law requires that the circumstances be viewed from the perspective of the person who feels threatened. In this case, that would be Mr. Carl Mintz.

    As the facts are portrayed above, it seems that he would not reasonably feel like his life was in danger.

    But what was Said saying to him? His choice of words could certainly go a long ways toward determining whether fear was reasonable. Where were Said’s hands? Did they appear poised to reach for a weapon?

    The argument that Mintz could have driven away loses a little steam, too, if he believed that Said or the passenger had guns. If he believed they were armed, then he might have reasonably believed that driving away was a quick way to get himself shot in the back of the head.

    I’m reminded of a famous case in Wyoming, where Gerry Spence defended a sheriff who shot someone in the backseat directly between the eyes. At the time, the backseat passenger hand his hands folded on his laps, holding a wine glass. The sheriff, though, had truly believed that the look he say in the guy’s eyes meant that he was going to draw his gun.

    The defense in that case: Self-Defense.
    The verdict? Not Guilty.

  2. Philip Jacques

    Bill makes an excellent point that more specific facts will clarify the event and assist Mintz’s defense. It’s possible that Said and/or his passenger were yelling threats, but no verbal threat justifies shooting someone.

    A verbal threat, like “I’m going to kill you,” combined with a physical threatening act could certainly justify shooting someone, because the reasonable person might believe that their life is in danger. Here, there is no indication that Said committed a threatening act.

    On the contrary, from the available facts, it appears that Said was actually retreating, presumably after seeing Mintz’s gun. And Mintz may have believed that Said or his passenger were armed, but an articulable reason for that believe hasn’t shown itself. If there isn’t such a reason, he was most likely acting out of either irrational fear or anger. If either one of those is the case, he won’t be able to use self-defense.

    I agree with Bill that more specific facts are crucial for Mintz’s case, but he is fighting an uphill battle to say the least.

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