Greetings and welcome back to AnomaLegal, the site Theodore Roosevelt once called “the greatest blog on the internet.”  As it has been a considerable time since our last post, we’d like to give a special shout out to our interns Alex, Britney, and Nigel, who are all fired for missing the deadline.
One of the questions we receive most often here at AnomaLegal involves email spam soliciting dubious virility drugs from Brazil, so we’re going to answer a less frequently asked question. Our alert readers sometimes want to know the legal implications of killing a vampire. Specifically, could you raise a self-defense claim after valiantly staking a
lawyer unholy, blood-sucking monster in its coffin?
The short answer is: “No.”
The slightly longer answer is: “Nope.”
To understand why, let’s look at a sample self-defense statute. The state of Oregon has the highest per capita ratio of vampires, (1.2% of the population is undead) so we’ll use their laws to illustrate this conundrum. This will cover both self-defense and defense of a third person because that will allow us to cover all the nuances, and we’ll be able to charge more.
161.209 Use of physical force in defense of a person. Except as provided in ORS 161.215 and 161.219, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose. [1971 c.743 §22]
161.215 Limitations on use of physical force in defense of a person. Notwithstanding ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using physical force upon another person if:
(1) With intent to cause physical injury or death to another person, the person provokes the use of unlawful physical force by that person; or
(2) The person is the initial aggressor, except that the use of physical force upon another person under such circumstances is justifiable if the person withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person the intent to do so, but the latter nevertheless continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful physical force; or
(3) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law. [1971 c.743 §24]
161.219 Limitations on use of deadly physical force in defense of a person. Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is:
(1) Committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or
(2) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling; or
(3) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person. [1971 c.743 §23]
For those of you who saw a bunch of legal-sounding text and contemplated scooping your eyeballs out with the nearest eyeball-scooping implement (AnomaLegal staffers recommend melon ballers), here’s a summary. If you or another person reasonably believe you are about to be unlawfully attacked, you may use an appropriate level of force to thwart the attacker so long as you did not initiate the incident.
“So what’s the problem?” You may ask. As soon as the sun sets, this undead chap will rise from his grave and commit various vile acts such as draining the blood of the living, slaughtering all those who oppose the new order of darkness, or streaking. Surely, it would be in the defense of yourself and your community to end him while the fiend is locked away in his casket by daylight?
Not so fast there, Dr. Van Helsing.
If you turn to the language of 161.209, you notice that you must “reasonably believe” there is the “imminent” threat of “unlawful force” against you. Let’s tackle each of these issues.
First you must reasonably believe you’re about to be attacked. This means that there is a certain amount of room for mistakes in your analysis. Perhaps your vampire only intends to sparkle moodily whilst engaging in tepid romances with scrawny teenage spinsters. If you could reasonably misinterpret that as “my throat is about to be ripped out by a slavering, undead Austro-Hungarian nobleman who can turn into a bat,” you’d still be justified in defending yourself. Presumably, having someone attached to your neck sucking harder than Jaws 4: The Revenge is unlawful force, so that’s just fine and dandy.
The real problem comes from the fact that the threat must be “imminent.” Generally, this applies if you have no safe opportunity to escape your attacker. Even though your blissfully slumbering vampire neighbor may very well be planning your horrible demise, he is not “using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.”
Okay then, why not wait until nightfall when his eyes snap open and then slam a stake through his heart? You’re only seconds away from a fate worse than death: death and then having your bloodless corpse propped in a variety of compromising and uncouth positions because vampires have a weird
sense of humor.
Actually, even though you’re now in imminent danger, you still probably wouldn’t be able to raise a self-defense claim. Look at 161.215 (2). If you just snuck into this guy’s house / mist-shrouded graveyard / haunted castle and jammed a weaponized oversize novelty pencil into his heart the minute he wakes up, you’re probably the “initial aggressor” in this confrontation, and the law does not look favorably upon such antics.
While the law can get rather complicated and fuzzy in a fluid situation, a good rule of thumb is that whoever takes the first swing is the initial aggressor. Verbal japes and the like generally aren’t enough to make one the initial aggressor, but vigorously brandishing a weapon can put one in that position.
In short, if a vampire moves into your neighborhood, your best bet is to leave. Failing that, you should populate your property with dimwitted teenage couples, token black characters, or other people who will likely be killed off early so that you can defend them when the vampire inevitably attacks them first for plot convenience.
[Editor’s Note: Wait. No. Don’t keep people on your property specifically for use as vampire bait.]
-The AnomaLegal Team