by Peter E. Schultz
Legal complexity is not easy to wade through these days, as evidenced by the number of active attorneys. Apply this simple formula to determine if you can legally use any force, especially deadly force, when defending yourself or a person near you. We call it ITOTR (eye-toter). Your ITOTR is the generic formula to help you make that split-second decision. Here’s what it means:
I — Represents 4 Precepts
- Innocence — As an intended victim you need to be innocent of starting, continuing, or escalating a conflict by your actions or speech. When using profanity or that all-powerful middle finger against someone’s annoying behavior, you actually compromise your self-defense legal rights.
- Intent — Villain expresses clear intent to inflict serious injury on you or a person near you. This is a judgment call by you. “Near” means very near, generally within a few feet.
- Immediacy — Villain is an immediate threat to your safety. He is present to hurt you right now, not one hour from now or next week.
- Imminence — Villain presents an imminent threat to your safety. You must be certain that you or someone near you will be hurt unless you raise a defense. Your honest perception of the event is the key to your legal success. Being unsure about this point can quickly bring undesirable results. It’s another judgment call by you.
T — Tool
Villain has the tool to hurt you: bare hands, knife, gun, vehicle, etc. We use the term “disparity of force,” meaning Villain has an attacking force (2,000 lb. boulder, for example) which is greater than the force you have to defend yourself (a phablet, for example). So, you are entitled to meet that force with the use of a self-defense tool — an equalizer. Villain’s bare hands might be a less obvious attack tool than his knife, gun, or boulder. Your heightened awareness will help sort this one out.
O — Opportunity
Villain has the actual opportunity to do the hurting. He is not separated from you by a fence, river, or building which can isolate him from you. He has the real chance to injure you.
T — Trap
You are trapped. You cannot escape from Villain. Limited egress from a room, alley, or hiking trail has blocked your escape.
R — Reasonable Person Standard
You believe that, after the defensive encounter, when all of the emotion has faded away, a reasonable member of society will agree with your use of force in self-defense in that situation.
ITOTR is not universally perfect legal advice.
According to many criminal justice experts, ITOTR is a valid formula to quickly define your civilian rules of engagement. Use of force law in your locale might vary slightly. Conditions in violent encounters will certainly differ from case to case. Do your homework! Confirm with your local police, your attorney, or your District Attorney that ITOTR fits their view of your decision-making process to use force in self-defense.
ITOTR does not guarantee your exemption from arrest or prosecution.
Today’s jurisprudence is complicated and subjective in most cases. Even if you’ve defended yourself legally, responding law enforcement officers might still choose to detain or arrest you. Your best defense is nearly fanatical overemphasis to always stay clear of conflict, using force as an absolutely last resort.
Learn the ITOTR. It’s not complicated. Your safety depends on it when faced with an attack, because you have no time to waste deciding whether or not to use force. Your quick ITOTR analysis needs to be complete in about half of 1 second. Yes, 0.5 second — you can do it!
Start thinking about your ITOTR now. Look closely at your daily activities. Start playing “What if…?” Visualize possible encounters with Villain in your everyday life, and determine if your planned use of force is justified in each fictional situation. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can dial in ITOTR. It’s your antidote to the otherwise fatal seconds of indecision that can steal your life.
Own your ITOTR !
Peter E. Schultz, Extreme Preemption (Old Julian Press, 2019) 37.