Friday, September 17, 2021

Estonia: Supreme Court Finds for Reasonable Self Defense



Mustakivi Bridge in Tallin, Estonia, Public Domain image

On 1 July, 2021, the Supreme Court of Estonia resolved a case which has been  moving through the courts for almost two years.

On 1 August, 2018, a road worker in Estonia used his legally owned and permitted pistol to defend himself against a drunken attacker.

The first court sentenced him to six years in prison.

The circuit court  (appeals court) reduced the sentence to a conditional prison sentence of 18 months with two years of probation.

The facts of the case were not in dispute. 

The road worker with the pistol and permit was Dmitri Doroškevitš. His attacker was a drunken resident of a nearby apartment, who punched him, broke his headset, retreated, ignored a warning shot, and attacked Dmitri again. 

The Criminal Law Chamber of the  Supreme Court of Estonia heard the case and reversed the decisions of the lower courts. From

According to the Supreme Court, the courts did not take sufficient account of the course of events in this case. It was a continued attack by the victim. He did not give up the attack even after the warning shot was fired, but instead insulted, threatened and provoked the accused and waited for just the right moment to attack him again, which he finally did. The victim continued the attack, even though he knew that Doroškevitš had a firearm.

The Chamber noted that the victim suddenly started running towards Doroshevich, his hands in a fist, and the distance between them was very small at the time of the shooting - only about five meters. This means that the accused had to react to the attack in just a few seconds. Therefore, he did not have the time or opportunity to think about exactly how to defend himself with a weapon.

The decision is strikingly similar to that of the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown V. United States, in 1921:

Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife. Therefore, in this Court at least, it is not a condition of immunity that one in that situation should pause to consider whether a reasonable man might not think it possible to fly with safety or to disable his assailant, rather than to kill him.

The understanding of the Estonian court is much the same as the doctrine in the United States about how fast an attacker can close the distance and inflict serious bodily harm, or death, on the defender. 

This is a welcome and reasonable view of the law of self defense. If a person is so hampered by requirements for reflection and potential alternate courses of action, that they are unable to make a decision to defend themselves in time for the defense to be viable, the law, in essence, nullifies their ability to effectually and legally defend themselves. 

The Supreme Court of Estonia recognized these facts about human nature.

This case is a victory for the inherent rights of self defense everywhere.

In many countries, the purpose of self defense has been defined, by law, as an illegitimate reason to own a firearm.

In England, Australia, and Canada self defense has been deliberately written out of the law as a legitimate purpose to own a firearm. If a owing a firearm for defense of self and others is not legitimate, all other uses of firearms become trivial, easily attacked, regulated, and often, eliminated.

If self defense is a legitimate reason to own a firearm, nearly the entire population can reasonably claim a viable reason to own a gun. In England, where this pernicious doctrine seems to have originated, the claimed purpose of the law was to reduce crime, while the actual reason was political. 

The ruling class wanted to prevent violent uprisings. If such an uprising occurred, they wished to be able to disarm their opponents and arm there friends. This has been documented by research by both Constable Greenwood at Cambridge and Joyce Lee Malcolm of the United States. 

Estonia is a small country which has had considerable experience in oppression under the former Soviet Union. 

Their Supreme Court appears to be learning the lessons of liberty.

©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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