This Teen Could Face A Fine For Defending Herself Against Attacker

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
The case of a 17-year-old Danish teen who could face a fine for using pepper spray to fight off an alleged attacker has sparked international outrage, with many people arguing that the teen victim is being punished for self-defense.

The young woman, whose name hasn't been released, told police officers that she was attacked by a man in central Sønderborg. When he attempted to remove her clothing, she used pepper spray to ward him off. But the possession and use of pepper spray are illegal in Denmark.

Helle Lundberg, a communications adviser for Denmark's South Jutland Police, tells Refinery29 that the teen hasn't been issued a fine yet, as police are still investigating the case.

"We don't know yet if we're going to give her a fine," Lundberg tells Refinery29. "In Denmark, we try to treat everyone [equally], considering the law." Lundberg explained that pepper spray is considered a weapon, so buying, possessing, and using it are illegal in the country.

The suspect fled the scene and hasn't been charged, Denmark's The Local reports. Police are looking for witnesses with more information — Lundberg tells Refinery29 that no witnesses have reported details about the incident.

After Denmark's TV Syd published its story on the incident, site commenters were quick to chime in on the matter, criticizing Denmark's policies and offering to help pay the teen's fine, if she is charged. According to The Local, the fine would likely be about 500 kroner (about $73). But Lundberg told Refinery29 that the maximum fine the teen could face is 3,000 kroner (about $437).

Lundberg explains that if the teen does receive a fine, she can choose to appeal it in court. As for the circumstances surrounding her actions — namely, if her use of pepper spray was an act of self-defense — Lundberg says it's the judge's responsibility to weigh the circumstances, not the police's. A judge can consider self-defense in the case of a potential fine, but the possession and use of pepper spray are still a crime, as far as police are concerned.

"If someone is excused [from a fine] because of the circumstances in their case, that's not for the police to decide," Lundberg tells Refinery29. "That's for the judge to decide."
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