I want to be clear and start off by saying, “Don’t duel.”
That being said, Missouri has a new use of force doctrine, codified in section 563.031.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. Under this statute, a person may use physical force, including deadly force, against a person to the extent that he or she reasonably believes the force necessary to protect themselves, as long as the person is not the initial aggressor and is in a place where he or she has a legal right to be.
This means that, effectively, Guy A could challenge Guy B to a duel at a time certain at a date certain in a public place, or better yet a 3rd party could lay out the terms of the duel in, say, Forest Park, where both Guy A and B have a legal right to be. If at high noon both Guy A and Guy B reach for their guns, neither is the initial aggressor because they are each reacting to the other reaching for a gun, and each has a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to protect himself from the other. The jury is literally still out on this, as this use of force statute only went into effect in October of this year and we don’t have many rulings from the Court on the matter at this point, but it certainly could be interpreted to permit dueling.
Of course, this is a crazy law school-esque hypothetical and it is likely that the prosecutor’s office would charge both parties regardless of the statute, but either party could assert that he was in a place that he had a right to be, and that he had a reasonable belief that force was necessary to protect himself against serious physical injury or death. If a duel participant asserted this defense, the State would then carry the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did not reasonably believe that his use of force was necessary to defend against what he reasonably believed was the imminent use of unlawful force.
Again, I don’t think that anybody should be dueling, but maybe, if the legislature doesn’t intend to clean up this statute, Forest Park Forever can set aside some funding to install a dueling ground at the park, since Bloody Island is no more. Also, don’t duel. Seriously. No dueling.
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