The success of self-defense as a defense to murder or assault depends on the extent of the force used and the extent of the threat to the individual’s safety. Non-deadly force can be used if the person reasonably believes that non-deadly force is about to be used on him. Deadly force can be used if the person reasonably believes that deadly force is about to be used on him. Deadly force is any force that produces death. In a minority of jurisdictions, before using deadly force you must retreat, provided that you can do so safely. In these jurisdictions, even where you can retreat safely, you don’t have to retreat from your home (this is known as the “Castle Rule”). Another important rule in this arena is the “Original Aggressor Doctrine” which requires that, if you are the original aggressor, you lose the ability to claim self-defense unless you withdraw from the altercation and communicate that withdrawal to the other party. A final important rule in this area is that you cannot use deadly force in defense of a dwelling or in defense of property.
About John Marshall
Founding partner at The Law Offices of John Marshall.