Slapping a Creep at the Bar: Is it Self-Defense?

When it comes to the law, things get technical. Something perfectly reasonable at the moment could be against the law, and you suddenly find yourself facing criminal charges.

This is often the case in a self-defense situation. For instance, imagine an aggressive man hitting on a woman at the bar. He isn’t touching her, but he’s getting too close and making some gross innuendos. She slaps him and hurries away. Was this self-defense, or was this assault?

In this article, we will use the scenario above. Broadly discussing Tennessee’s self-defense laws, we will attempt to determine whether this woman is justified in her response.

Self-Defense Involves a Reasonable Belief of Danger

One interesting aspect of self-defense law is that it involves belief. If you sincerely feel that you are in physical danger, you can respond with violence. This standard applies even if you later discover that you made a mistake.

Now, let’s take this rule and apply it to our fictional woman at the bar. Let’s say the man talking to her was twice her size. He’s been leaning in close, describing vivid sexual acts he wants to perform on her. Onlookers notice a look of fear in the woman’s eyes just before she lashes out.

In this situation, the woman has a legitimate case for self-defense. She doesn’t know this man, and he could easily overpower her. At that moment, she can’t correctly determine if he’s just bragging or if he intends to force himself on her.

Self-Defense Involves Proportionate Force

Imagine Man A pushes Man B. Man B then picks up a chair and proceeds to beat Man A within an inch of his life. Man B, in this situation, has a weak case for self-defense. At some point, he should have realized that Man A was subdued and ended his attack.

Now let’s return to our woman at the bar. The large man is looming over her, saying disgusting things. She lashes out, slaps him, and hurries away. This is a reasonable example of self-defense. She exerted just enough force to startle him and make her escape. Prosecutors would have a difficult time proving that a smaller person created disproportionate harm with an open-handed slap.

Conclusion: In the scenario described above, the woman who slapped the creep has a strong self-defense case in Tennessee.

Other Forms of Self-Defense in Tennessee

Of course, the yarn we’ve spun above does not apply to everyone. There are other scenarios where you can claim self-defense in the state. Here are a couple of common examples.

The Castle Doctrine

In Tennessee, you have the right to protect your home from an invader. If someone is attempting to enter your space to harm you, you can defend yourself. They don’t need to be an immediate threat. They must only attempt to gain access to your space.

In Tennessee, the castle doctrine can also apply to your car, RV, camping tent, etc.


In the past, most states required you to take every evasive maneuver possible before lashing out against an attacker. This is no longer the case. Over the last couple of decades, more and more states have adopted stand-your-ground laws.

Because of these laws, you do not have to retreat from an attacker. You can stay where you are and defend yourself. Keep in mind, however, that all other self-defense standards still apply. You must have a reasonable belief that you are in danger, and your response must be proportionate to the attack.

If you’ve been accused of assault when you were simply protecting yourself, our firm is here to help. You can call us at (931) 361-4477 and tell us your story, or you can schedule time with us online.

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