Self-defense is a right that everyone has, but it’s important to note that the law only protects you to a certain extent and if a case can be made that you went too far in the name of self-defense, it could still mean that you will be held responsible for those actions and possibly even end up in jail. Here are some basics to know to make sure that you are able to protect yourself and your loved ones without putting yourself in danger of breaking the law.
Stand your ground laws
Many states have what are known as “Stand your ground” laws though they may go under different names depending on the state. These laws are made to give citizens the power to protect their homes and families by even lethal force if needed in the event that someone forces themselves onto your property with ill intent. Essentially if someone breaks into your home, you have the right to protect your loved ones at all costs. This of course still has limitations however.
One factor that law enforcement takes into account when dealing with whether self-protection is a valid defense is whether there is imminent danger. This means does law enforcement believe that the victim came into contact with the defender with the intent to harm? If so, it would be easy to make a case for self-defense. It however is more difficult if the defender was the one to start the confrontation or is the one to escalate it into physical violence. This means that if someone comes to your home and starts a verbal altercation, this is not enough to hurt them and claim self-defense because you would be the one who escalated it to a place where physical harm occurred.
Excessive force is another way in which a self-defense argument can topple. This is because the law allows for just enough force to neutralize a threat but any actions taken after that would constitute as excessive force. An example of this is if an unarmed person forces their way into your home and instantly either tries to escape or surrenders when they see someone is home then any physical violence placed upon them would be considered excessive force. However, this is not just for the unarmed. Even if someone is armed and a defendant shoots their arm for example and they drop the weapon, this would be a neutralized threat at this point, and going any further, especially fatally, could end up leading to a murder charge.
To conclude, it’s important that there are laws out there that allow us to defend ourselves in certain situations where law enforcement can’t get there in time, but there are limitations to what can be done and it’s vital to know the boundaries to avoid unfortunate consequences when you were merely trying to stay safe.