Classic American heroes like Superman, Captain America and Indiana Jones have all punched Nazis in the face and with the rise of the Alt-Right, many real-life Americans are joining their ranks. Alt-Right leader Richard Spencer was punched in the face not once, but twice during the inauguration weekend and even Shia Lebouf shoved a Nazi who was interfering with his Anti-Trump art installation at Museum of the Moving Image in New York. But while fictional heroes may get away with punching racists and the media may be filled with talk of such events, punching someone for their political beliefs is still a crime. Here’s what San Diego violent crime defense attorneys believe aspiring racist-punchers should know before they go out looking for trouble.
First, while many people call members of the Alt-Right, neo-Nazis and KKK “Nazis” -and in context, they may stand for many of the same principles, it’s important to recognize that all those fictional heroes who fought Nazis were fighting actual WWII German Nazi soldiers. That’s an important distinction because hitting someone your country is fighting in a war is drastically different than hitting an American citizen who supports the principles of the Nazi party. While you may not like what that person has to say, you don’t have a legal doctrine of war to support your violent actions against them. If another country with a genocidal philosophy rose up to fight the US in war, you could absolutely get together and fight people from their army, but even then, you couldn’t legally punch Americans who supported their cause. In that case, your San Diego criminal lawyer may attempt to argue that you believed the person you punched was a spy for the country America was at war with, but even so, you still could be found guilty.
Of course, that’s not to say you can never legally punch white supremacists. But if you aren’t willing to face prison time for battery based on your political beliefs, you can only attack a racist if they present a real threat to you or someone else. In the case that you or someone else is in realistic danger from the Nazi, you can use the minimum amount of force to prevent that danger. In California, someone using self-defense does not have to wait until the other person attacks and they do not need to attempt to escape the situation before protecting themselves. So if a racist verbally threatens you or someone else and there is sufficient evidence to indicate that they intend to carry out that threat, making the threat immediate and real, you have the right to fight back. If you want to actively seek out racists and you only attack those who are making legitimate threats against others, you could even legally act as a real-life superhero.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that if you make realistic verbal threats to a white supremacist, they could punch you in the face and claim they were acting in self-defense. In fact, San Diego defense attorneys warn that merely making such threats could put you at risk for assault or even criminal threat charges whether or not someone fights back.
It’s worth noting that while a Neo-Nazi can be charged with a hate crime if he or she hits someone because of that person’s race, ethnicity, origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability, punching someone for holding racist beliefs is not a hate crime.
If you have any questions about self-defense or assault and battery charges, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego violent crime defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Anthony Crider