Self-defense is a defense against using deadly force when you feel your life or safety is in imminent danger. Self-defense laws vary by state and may fall into one of three categories depending on leniency and where and when they apply.
And while you will hopefully never need to use deadly force to protect yourself, it is still helpful to know how your local laws work.
Here’s a quick look at self-defense laws, including when they might apply.
Types of Self-Defense Laws
Depending on what state you live in, self-defense laws will fall into one of three categories:
Stand Your Ground – The right to use deadly force to protect yourself, regardless of whether you are on your property or not.
Castle Doctrine – The right to use deadly force to protect yourself so long as you are on your property.
Duty to Retreat – The right to use deadly force to protect yourself only if you have no other way to safely remove yourself from the situation.
You’ll find further nuances within each type of law. For example, some states that uphold the Castle Doctrine specify that the person must be on your property unlawfully.
How to Invoke Self-Defense
There are four elements that must be met in order to legally claim self-defense:
- Your use of force was in response to an unprovoked attack.
- The unprovoked attack was one that threatened imminent injury or death.
- The degree of force you responded with was reasonable under the circumstances.
- Your fear of injury or death was reasonable under the circumstances.
Notably, while self-defense laws speak of using deadly force, you do not actually have to kill someone in order to invoke the claim. An attempt of deadly force will still qualify, so long as the other elements are met.
Have more questions about self-defense laws? Reach out and let’s talk.