Self Defense Legal Issues – Can You Be Prosecuted For Self Defense?

He was hiking up a trail in Coconino County Arizona in 2004 when suddenly a growling dog charged down the path running straight towards him. He quickly pulled his handgun and fired a round in the ground. The dog then retreated to safety, then suddenly an angry man came running down the trail threatening to kill him. Claiming self defense he fired three shots killing the attacking man.

This case received national attention, since carrying a gun is not illegal in Arizona many viewed this as a text book legal use of deadly force. However, prosecutors disagreed and charged the shooter with 2nd degree murder. He was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. This is a common misunderstanding. The vast majority of Americans does not understand the legal issues involved in the use of force for self defense.

There have been thousands prosecuted for excessive force used in their self defense. Most were utterly shocked when they were charged with a crime. Even if, they were not convicted the cost from their legal expenses and the strain from prosecution leave many bitter and resentful of our legal system. This is a complex legal issue that remarkably few not trained in the law comprehend, even trained Police Officers have been charged with unnecessary use of force, and some are incarcerated.

A friend of mine recently explained that if someone attempted to climb in his window in daytime or night, he would shoot them. I explained to him that even soldiers in combat have rules of engagement. It is foolhardy to assume that civilians have carte blanch permission to use any method of self defense. It is essential that we realize that the threat of danger or preventing crimes does not necessarily legally justify the use of deadly force. Legally, the use of unlawful deadly force is grounds for prosecution. It does not matter if the person actually dies.

Legal Use of Deadly Force

Although the laws in your state may not be exactly the same, essentially most are unified in this fundamental concept. You can only use deadly force in self defense for protection from serious bodily injury or death. This law also would provide for the protection of others. If someone attacked you with a deadly weapon you can use deadly force, on the other hand, if someone attacks you with their hands only in rare occasions would you be allowed to use deadly force. For example, you are beaten badly, and the attacker refuses to stop.

Legal Use of Non Lethal Force

Using non lethal self defense weapons for protection is the more realistic approach, in most situations. It is highly unlikely you will ever be charged with any crime if you use them in your defense. This includes in the few states where they are banned. The only exception might be if you started an altercation and used the weapon. However, if you did not initiate the attack, using non lethal self defense weapons would most likely allowed. If you want to avoid prosecution, the logical choice would be to use nonlethal weapons, unless protecting yourself or others from serious injury or death.

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