February 8, 2018

On April 28, an 80-year-old woman shot and killed a man who allegedly stabbed her husband and invaded their home. The 25-year-old intruder entered the home and stabbed the husband “multiple times in the abdomen.” The wife shot the intruder, who died on scene. The husband was in stable condition. The woman faced no charges.

Phillip Green and two other men all met at one bar, then rode together to a second tavern before going to a strip club. Green, who is much older than others in the group, said he didn’t want to go, and preferred to be dropped at his car. That’s when Banks, 26, seemed to take offense, stopped the car, and pulled Green from the back seat and began beating him. He said Banks, 26, had hit him, knocked him to the ground, kicked him and pulled his jacket up over his head. He said he felt handicapped and put his hand on his holstered gun for fear Banks would take it. Then as he returned to his feet, Green said, he just “put it up and shot.” Phillip K. Green, 40, was found guilty of first-degree reckless homicide while armed with a deadly weapon.

In both cases, the shooters had a legal permit to carry a weapon. However, in one case the shooter was acquitted of homicide and in the other the shooter was found guilty. Why weren’t both homicides justified on the grounds of self-defense?

To justify a homicide on the ground of self-defense, there must have been not only the belief but also reasonable grounds for believing that at the time of the shooting, the person shooting was in imminent danger for his or her life or great bodily harm.

Two key words here make a big difference: imminent and reasonable
The term “imminent” is defined as immediate danger such as must be instantly met and cannot be guarded against by calling for the protection of the law. The imminent requirement ensures that deadly force will be used only where it is necessary as a last resort in the exercise of the inherent right of self-preservation. In other words, a person would have to be faced with the choice to kill their attacker or be killed or seriously harmed themselves.

The term “reasonable” can be tricky. What matters in these situations is whether a “reasonable person” in the same situation would have perceived an immediate threat of physical harm.

Duty to Retreat: The original laws regarding self-defense required people claiming self-defense to first make an attempt to avoid the violence before using force. While most states have removed this rule for instances involving the use of nonlethal force, many states still require that a person make an attempt to escape the situation before applying lethal force.

Stand Your Ground: In contrast to the duty to retreat, many states have enacted so-called “stand your ground” laws. These laws remove the duty to retreat and allow for a claim of self-defense even if the victim did nothing to flee from the threat of violence.

Castle Doctrine: The castle doctrine states that people who have been assaulted in their homes by a trespasser have no duty to retreat or flee but may stand their ground and use such force as is necessary and reasonable to defend themselves.

In most states, the use of deadly force is not considered self-defense in the defense of property. Why? Few items of property are considered vital to survival. Today, most valuable items of property are insured against loss. Theft of property is not considered an assault against your person and does not constitute an imminent threat of danger for your life.

Make My Day rules: However, in states that have adopted ”make my day” rules, the occupant of a dwelling may use deadly force against an intruder.

It is absolutely imperative that concealed carriers only use their weapon as a last resort when faced with a threat and understand the laws of the state in which they carry their weapon.

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