Provocation as a Defense

Inside the Law: Provocation as a Defense

July 03, 2018 - 3:00 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions​

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Sticks and stones will break my bones, but your words will cause me to hurt you. 

“What are you going to do, shoot me?” said a guy in Chattanooga, Tennessee last month to a guy with a gun in his hands, who then shot him dead.  

Too bad for the shooter that there’s no “but your honor, he dared me!” defense. 

Is provocation ever a defense to a crime?

If someone intentionally says something he knows will make you go ballistic, is there ever a time when the law says that the victim got what he deserved? 


If what he said was, “I’m going to kill you” and you do it before he does it to you, you could plead self-defense. Or if the person is threatening to harm someone else, in some jurisdictions you can argue that you were acting in defense of others. 

In general, though, being provoked won’t get the charges dismissed but can be used once you’re convicted as a mitigating factor to decrease the punishment when you’re being sentenced for the crime. 

The argument is that the provocation inflamed the passion, rage, or fright of the defendant and would cause a reasonable person to lose control. 

The best advice, though, if you’re staring down the barrel of a gun, is to hold your tongue so the guy you’re talking to does not need a defense to your murder.