Less Than Lethal Self Defense Blog

When can you use deadly force?

Finding the Best Tool, Techniqueslance@tancoindustries.comComment

July 13, 2012

by CTD Suzanne Related Topics: FirearmsLegal IssuesSelf Defense

Our founding fathers took a deliberate and unarguable stand for their God-given rights to self-defense and protection of property. As Americans, we have enjoyed that right since the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The right to defend ourselves includes the legal and justifiable right to use deadly force. Though wording is different in each one, every state has self-defense statutes or case law that defines how and when a person can use deadly force.

You witness a kidnapping in the local park. Is it okay to use deadly force?

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You witness a kidnapping in the local park. Is it ok to use deadly force?

By deciding to carry a gun for self-defense, you have taken up a great responsibility to protect yourself, your family, your friends, and other innocents around you. You must now practice and maintain self-control and restraint wherever you go. Situational awareness and staying in a sound judgment when you carry is of the utmost importance. Do not let fights or arguments escalate. You have a responsibility to stay out of a potentially lethal situation. No one wants to have to pull his or her gun unless it is absolutely necessary.

Necessity is part of every states’ laws when you must use deadly force. However, all states differ in their language, but in general, the legal use of deadly force in self-defense the following factors must be present:

  • Was it justified?
  • Was it necessary?
  • Was deadly force reasonable?
  • Was death or serious bodily injury imminent?

Therefore, you cannot shoot someone in self-defense if you provoked the attack, you are not in immediate danger, and the attacker must have the ability and chance to hurt you. Many states recognize that deadly force is necessary when someone is committing, or without a doubt about to commit a felony. All states differ on how they define a felony. Some say “forcible felony,” while others specify which felonies, but as a general rule, robbery, burglary, and any other felony that would be punishable with the death sentence is justified reason to use deadly force against another human being.

Of course, the issue is never black and white. Whether you used justifiable deadly force in a situation is up to the law enforcement officer responding to the scene, the lawyers involved, the jury, and the judge all have a say. Some states have laws to protect you against civil court cases for using deadly force. Other states, even though you have proven you were justified, do allow the criminal or the criminal’s family to sue you. Hawaii and New Jersey allow a civil suit against you, even if deadly force was justifiable.

Take a self-defense pistol class and practice as much as possible with your gun.

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Take a self-defense pistol class and practice as much as possible with your gun.

Most states allow you to use deadly force to protect yourself, and other innocents as well. Some states specifically define third parties. For example in Oklahoma, these other innocents are “his or her husband, wife, parent, child, master, mistress, and servant.” Vermont also defines which third parties you may defend, “his or her husband, wife, parent, child, brother, sister, master, mistress, servant, guardian or ward.”

Another big factor in determining if you have the legal right to defend yourself by using deadly force is the ability to retreat. Some states require you to “escape” the situation if you can. If you knowingly had a way out of the situation, the state could possibly charge you with murder. The Castle Doctrine law that many states have adopted means that you have no duty to retreat if you are in your own home and in most cases, at work. Make My Day Law or Stand Your Ground Law is an extension of the Castle Doctrine, which means you have no duty to retreat anywhere you have a right to be.