What are self-defense rights?

When someone is met with a dangerous situation involving violence, the threat of harm or death, there are self-defense actions that would be considered legal but vary from state-to-state.  It is always important to know and understand the laws where you live regarding actions of self-defense and the consequences of them.

Imminent threat.

People are allowed to use self-defense to prevent suffering force or violence from another person in most situations.  In order to use self-defense, threat must be imminent, even if it is verbal as long as it puts an individual in fear of immediate physical harm, but offensive language without possible threat of physical harm does not justify self-defense actions which are only justified until the impending threat has diminished.  A fear of harm is measured by actions that a reasonable person in he same situation would perceive an immediate threat of physical harm.

Unreasonable fear.

Sometimes a person may have a genuine fear of the danger of physical harm but it is objectively unreasonable.  If a person attempts to defend themselves in this situation, it  is known as “imperfect self-defense.” Imperfect self-defense does not excuse a person from the crime of using violence, but it can lessen the charges and penalties involved in states that recognize “imperfect self-defense.”  Self-defense laws require the response of a defense to match the level of the threat in each unique situation. If the threat involves deadly force, the person defending themselves can use deadly force to counteract the threat. But, if the threat involves minor force a person defending themselves will not be able to use “self-defense” to support a legal claim if they caused grievous bodily harm or death.

Duty to retreat.

People should always first attempt to avoid violence or the threat of violence before answering it with force and retreat instead.  This action is known as the duty to retreat.  Many states do not require a person to retreat in instances that do not involve lethal force.

Stand your ground.

Some states have a stand your ground law that allows for a claim of self-defense even if the claimant did nothing to flee from the threat of violence. This is the most common when situations involve non-lethal force..

Castle doctrine.

Homicide may be justified when a death of an intruder occurs in someone’s home under the castle law, but that does not mean that indiscriminate violence is permitted when a person is caught trespassing.  Understanding the state law where you live is important, so actions you take to protect yourself, or your home are not punished making you a criminal instead of a victim.  Reviewing the laws is imperative if you plan on protecting your home with a firearm.  Most states have some kind of castle law. The stronger laws do not require homeowners to attempt to retreat before using force to protect their domicile, and there are a few states that have very strong stand-your-ground laws allowing citizens to use force in their car or at work without first trying to retreat.

Legal counsel can advise.

Self-defense claims are fairly common.  The rules about the situations in which a person can defend themselves and the amount of force they use can be supported by state law and may be important in litigation.  Criminal attorneys can help with self-defense claims and should be called to analyze individual incidents.

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