Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Answers the Question: Can verbal insults justify an assault?

Yes.

While most of us have been told since childhood that no matter what a person says to us, we should never resort to violence in retaliation, Mississippi law takes a slightly different approach.  Mississippi law recognizes that sometimes a person’s words are so insulting, so hurtful, so repulsive, that the target of those words might be justified in retaliating with force.

Under Mississippi Code Annotated Section 99-17-19,

In all trials for assault and battery, or for an assault, the defendant may give in evidence, in excuse or justification, any insulting words used by the person on whom the assault or assault and battery was committed, at the time of the commission thereof, toward the defendant, and the jury may consider and determine whether such words were or were not a sufficient excuse for or justification of the offense committed.

In other words, if the defendant in an assault case was insulted by the victim, he is entitled to argue to the jury that the victim’s comments to him justified the assault.  Furthermore, the Court will instruct the jury that if they find that the insults justified the assault, then they should find the defendant “not guilty.”

This defense basically allows the defendant to ask the jury to find him “not guilty,” because the victim needed his butt kicked.  Of course, it will be up to the jury to decide whether the insults were bad enough to justify the assault imposed upon the victim.  The worse the insults, the more likely the jury will acquit the defendant.

It falls to defense counsel to convince the jury that the assault was justified.  If you have an issue relating to a criminal case, you need a tough, smart lawyer to protect your rights.  Please contact me for a free consultation.

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2 responses to “Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Answers the Question: Can verbal insults justify an assault?

  1. Does this apply to instances of murder? For instance, what if someone insults me and I assault him and during that assault he dies? Does this doctrine cover that?

    Or what if they insult someone close to me like my wife or children? If someone were to call my wife [ edited- curse words] would I have cause to assualt him and use this as a defense, even though the insult were directed towards another party and not me?

  2. Chad, the answer to your first question is no. This statute will not provide any protection to you in a homicide case. It applies to assault and battery cases only.

    I’m not sure I understand the second question. Are you asking if the victim says to you, “You’re wife is a _______.”? Or are you asking if the victim insults her directly and you overhear it?

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