In The Dark Knight, beloved "straight arrow" lawyer Harvey Dent punched a witness in court. In full view of the court he enacted physical violence against a member of the public.

In fairness, the guy did have a gun on him (how he got that into the courtroom I'll never know), so you could argue that it was self-defence. But if you watch the scene you can clearly see Harvey disarmed the man before punching him. This is a clear violation of self-defense law as the unarmed man no-longer posed a threat.

I am not saying that Harvey behaved in an evil way. In a life or death scenario we can behave irrationally. But lawyers have a strict code of conduct when it comes to the courtroom.

How did Harvey maintain his image of being a "straight arrow" lawyer after committing such an obvious violation of courtroom procedure?

  • They applauded him after the fact, so I don't think anyone cared about any (if any) violations of procedure. No one cares about the bad guy getting punched. Jun 28, 2017 at 7:38
  • An unarmed man can still be dangerous. I'm not sure your question is valid.
    – Ling
    Jun 28, 2017 at 8:15
  • And after rewatching the scene it is clear that the punch and disarming was part of the same action. I can't imagine the law in any civilized country would label this as not self defense.
    – Ling
    Jun 28, 2017 at 8:20
  • The point you raised Gallifreyan is a big part of my main objection to this scene in the movie. No judge worth his salt would allow that sort of conduct. I know that Gotham is meant to be a hotbed of crime and whatnot, but that does not excuse Harvey's behaviour. Jun 28, 2017 at 8:41
  • 6
    "A person is privileged to use such force as reasonably appears necessary to defend him or herself against an apparent threat of unlawful and immediate violence from another." Clearly the court deemed neutralising the threat via a disarm and knockout punch reasonable. Not much else to it, I don't think. Jun 28, 2017 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


The very short answer is that the (would-be) gunman was still holding the gun when Dent punched him. Dent grabs the gun and points it toward the floor, but it's not until he hits him that he appears to let go.

As such, Harvey's actions would be well within the scope of acting in self-defence and the defence of others within the court.

The script direction agrees. Dent grabs the gun but there's no indication that the mobster had let go of it.

ROSSI: Hostile? I’ll show you hostile.

Rossi jumps up, points a gun at Dent’s face. Screams from the gallery. Rossi pulls the trigger – the gun misfires with a pop. Dent steps forward, grabs the gun, decks Rossi with a right cross, unloads the gun and sets it down in front of Maroni.

The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplay

The novelisation is pretty unequivocal. Grabbing the gun and punching Rossi happened effectively simultaneously.

Rossi lifted his hand from his side, and somehow it was holding a gun. He aimed at Dent’s face, barely four feet away, and pulled the trigger. There was a click as the gun’s hammer fell on the firing pin, but there was no shot. Dent took a single step forward, grabbing the gun with his left hand as his right, curled into a fist, struck Rossi in the mouth. Rossi slumped back into the witness chair and spat blood.

Dent ejected the clip from Rossi’s weapon, letting it fall to the floor, and crossed to where Maroni sat. He dropped the empty gun onto the table in front of Maroni, and said, casually, “Ceramic .28 caliber. That’s how it beat the metal detectors. Made in China, I believe.” Turning back to the witness box, he said, “Mr. Rossi, I recommend you buy American.”

The Dark Knight: Official Novelisation

You may also wish to note that the quote addresses the issue (with some slightly altered dialogue) of how he got the gun into the courtroom

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