You hear a lot about self-defense, but the myth we’ll focus on today is that if you defend yourself, then you can be punished by law for injuries you inflict. We’ve all heard the ridiculous stories of the burglar who sues the owner of the home for injuries on his property. At Self Secure, we want to make it clear that you have the right of protecting yourself from danger.
How does the law define self-defense? The right of self defense is the right “to use such force as reasonably appears necessary to defend him or herself against an apparent threat of unlawful and immediate violence from another” George E. Dix, Gilbert Law Summaries: Criminal Law xxxiii (18th ed. 2010) (original emphasis); see generally David C. Brody & James R. Acker, Criminal Law 130 (2014). By “reasonably”, we mean that the average reasonable person would also find that same use of force necessary to protect themselves if they were in your situation.
This myth that you’ll get into more trouble defending yourself than not is dangerous because it causes hesitation. You must be willing to act to defend yourself, but it is important to understand what level of violence is acceptable in your own defense. Different states have different specific regulations, and different court cases have drawn the line in slightly different places over the years. Here are some basic guidelines you need to know:
Use a similar level of force: If an assailant approaches you with a gun and threatens to kill you, you are entitled to use similar deadly force and deadly weapons in your self-defense. If, however, an unarmed man verbally threatens you, and you shoot him, your self-defense claim will likely fall short. Do what you must, but once you have inflicted enough injury to safely get away, you should escape instead of inflicting further injury.
Duty To Retreat: Some states have a law that says you have a duty to retreat instead of fighting. This means that if an assailant threatens your safety and life, but you have a safe and reasonable way to retreat, then you should retreat instead of fighting. Individual states dictate whether this also applies in the home or car. You can read more about your particular state laws here: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/04/us/table.selfdefense.laws/
Defense of Others: Again, the rules vary somewhat from state to state, but if you see someone who is in immediate and imminent threat of serious injury, and they cannot retreat, you are likely justified in coming to their aid with the same level of force as the victim would reasonably be expected to use.
Pepper Spray is a great option for those who want to defend themselves effectively, but don’t want to use deadly force. While you must still be in real and imminent danger, pepper spray is not considered deadly force. Check out our line of products and read more about how to use pepper spray.