Self defense is something everyone thinks they understand. The concept of protecting yourself and your loved ones is generally considered to be sacred, and few would argue against such a right. Do you know what the law actually says about self defense? It is not as cut and dry as you might think. Like most statutes, there are complexities and legal language to understand. Why is this important? You never know when you could find yourself in an undesirable situation not of your own choosing; it is important should that time come that you know what you are allowed to do by law to protect yourself and possibly your family.
First, take a look at ARS 13-1404 if you like. Here I’ll just go over my explanation.
To put this into layman’s terms, you are justified in using lethal force when:
(1) A reasonable person would believe they were about to be injured.
(2) A reasonable person would believe someone was attempting to injure them.
(1) Physical force is immediately necessary to prevent injury
Further, you may not cry “self defense” if the following is true:
(1) Only words have been exchanged by the parties.
(2) The other party is a law enforcement officer.
(3) You initiated the encounter, and failed to attempt to leave and the other person keeps trying to hurt you or successfully does so.
Summarizing Section 5, be aware that you are able to use the same level of protection in defense of a third party as you are of yourself, as long as the same criteria are true for them. As you can see, it is not as simple as it first seems. Let me give you an example.
Suppose you are in a shopping mall with your family, when a drunk person approaches you. Again, suppose they are out of their mind, and are threatening you and your family and coming unreasonably close. You still may not use physical force to remove him from the situation. If you did, you could be charged with assault. It is not until you, under the “reasonable person” umbrella, believe you or a family member are about to be immediately injured and only physical force will stop the altercation.
While I do not sit here and seriously suggest you review the Arizona Revised Statutes while in the middle of a potential altercation in a public place, I do suggest that you remember one thing. Decisions made in the heat of the moment will be judged in the cool of the courtroom. Many have been tripped up by failing to remember this when their blood was hot, and they have sacrificed much for their mistake.
If you have been involved in a situation which you believe is justified under the self defense statute, contact a criminal defense lawyer. A criminal defense attorney will be well versed in the statutes and will know how to mount a defense against unreasonable prosecution when self defense is a valid claim.