A traditional element of self-defense doctrine is the imminence rule, restricting the use of force in self-defense to cases where the threatened harm is imminent, about to happen. In recent years, this rule has been subject to increasing criticism, especially in the context of cases involving battered women, and some commentators have even called for its elimination. This essay presents the case for the imminence rule as reflecting the requirement that in a civil society, the use of force be reserved to the state, with only one exception. This exception applies to cases where an individual is faced with an imminent threat. In such circumstances, the state would not be able to intervene in time to protect the person, and hence the individual is permitted to use force in her own defense.
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