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

He was walking along a trail in Coconino County, Arizona, in 2004 when suddenly a growling dog charged down the trail that was running directly towards him. He quickly drew his pistol and fired a bullet to the ground. The dog then retreated to safety, then all of a sudden 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, as carrying a gun is not illegal in Arizona, many viewed it as a textbook on the legal use of deadly force. However, prosecutors disagreed and charged the attacker with second degree murder. He was later found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. This is a common misunderstanding. The vast majority of Americans do not understand the legal issues surrounding the use of force in self-defense.

Thousands have been prosecuted for the use of excessive force in their own defense. Most were completely shocked when they were charged with a crime. Even if they were not convicted, the cost of their legal expenses and the strain of the prosecution leave many bitter and resentful of our legal system. This is a complex legal issue that very few who are not trained in the law understand, even trained police officers have been accused of unnecessary use of force and some are incarcerated.

A friend of mine recently explained to me that if someone tried to climb out of his window during the day or night, he would shoot them. I explained that even soldiers in combat have rules of engagement. It is rash to assume that civilians have carte blanche to use any method of self-defense. It is critical that we realize that the threat of danger or the prevention of crime 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 on this fundamental concept. You can only use deadly force in self-defense to protect yourself from serious bodily injury or death. This law would also provide protection to others. If someone attacks you with a deadly weapon, you can use deadly force, on the other hand, if someone attacks you with their hands only rarely, you will be allowed to use deadly force. For example, you are brutally beaten and the attacker refuses to stop.

Legal use of non-lethal force

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

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