While we all hope we never need to use force to defend ourselves or our property, sometimes a persona finds themselves in a situation wherein they seemingly have no other choice. Unfortunately the question of whether use of lethal force is justified in self-defense cannot be reduced to a simple list of factors, but here is a brief summary of the relevant law.
Lawfully Using Lethal Force in Defense of Life and Body
The killing of one person by another may be justifiable when necessary to resist the attempt to commit a forcible and life-threatening crime, if a reasonable person in the same or similar situation would believe that:
It is lawful for a person being assaulted to defend themself from attack if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing, and does in fact believe, that he or she will suffer bodily injury. In doing so, he or she may use such force, up to deadly force, as a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would believe necessary to prevent great bodily injury or death. An assault with fists does not justify use of a deadly weapon in self-defense unless the person being assaulted believes, and a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would also believe, that the assault is likely to inflict great bodily injury.
It is lawful for a person who has grounds for believing, and does in fact believe, that great bodily injury is about to be inflicted upon another to protect the victim from attack. In so doing, the person may use such force as reasonably necessary to prevent the injury. Deadly force is only considered reasonable to prevent great bodily injury or death.
Limitations on the Use of Force in Self-Defense
The right of self-defense ceases when there is no further danger from an assailant. Thus, where a person attacked under circumstances initially justifying self-defense renders the attacker incapable of inflicting further injuries, the law of self-defense ceases and no further force may be used . Furthermore, a person may only use the amount of force, up to deadly force, as a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would believe necessary to prevent imminent injury. It is important to note the use of excessive force to counter an assault may result in civil or criminal penalties.
The right of self-defense is not initially available to a person who initiates the assault of another. However, if such a person attempts to stop further combat and clearly informs the adversary of his or her desire for peace but the opponent nevertheless continues the fight, the right of self-defense returns and is the same as the right of any other person being assaulted .
Protecting One’s Home
A person may defend his or her home against anyone who attempts to enter in
a violent manner intending violence to any person in the home. The amount of force that may be used in resisting such entry is limited to that which would appear necessary to a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances to resist the violent entry . One is not bound to retreat, even though a retreat might safely be made. One may resist force with force, increasing it in proportion to the intruder's persistence and violence, if the circumstances apparent to the occupant would cause a reasonable person in the same or similar situation to fear for his or her safety .
The occupant may use a firearm when resisting the intruder's attempt to commit a forcible and life-threatening crime against anyone in the home provided that a reasonable person in the same or similar situation would believe that:
Defense of Property
The lawful occupant of real property has the right to request a trespasser to leave the premises . If the trespasser does not do so within a reasonable time, the occupant may use force to eject the trespasser . The amount of force that may be used to eject a trespasser is limited to that which a reasonable person would believe to be necessary under the same or similar circumstances .
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