It is not uncommon for people to get into physical fights. However, there are millions of Americans who are victims of violent crimes every year. While Arizona law does allow individuals to protect themselves with physical force, it is important for people to be aware of the legal limits on self-defense.
Unfortunately, there are too many times when someone must defend themselves against someone else committing a crime. Self-defense cases come up in all types of situations, from home break-ins to fights between neighbors.
Arizona has clearly defined self-defense laws (also known as “stand your ground” laws) that are meant to protect those in danger, while giving them the legal opportunity to defend themselves from harm. When police in Arizona believe someone was acting out of self-defense, they may not charge that person with whatever crime was committed under the circumstances.
What to Consider
Know When to Stop. Although it differs from state to state, generally, people are permitted to use reasonable physical force to protect themselves from immediate danger. It is okay for you to fight back if someone is physically hitting you. However, if they stop fighting, you cannot continue hitting them; this would be considered an unreasonable use of force.
Criminal Charges. If you use self-defense when it is not justified by law, you could have criminal charges filed against you, even if you didn’t start the fight.
Civil Liability. If you use unreasonable force in defending yourself, or if you weren’t justified in using force at all, the other person may file a civil lawsuit against you and you may be forced to pay them restitution.
Castle Laws. These laws can greatly differ from each state, and some states do not have them. These laws allow you to use deadly force if you are in your own home and an intruder threatens to injure or kill you. You are using this force to “protect your castle.” While Arizona does not have a “castle law,” there are statutes in place which permit an individual to use physical force if an intruder is in their home.
Deadly Force. You are not permitted to use deadly force unless you’re in reasonable fear of immediate serious physical injury or death. If you can get out of the situation safely, you should. Deadly force should only be used as the last resort.
Defense of Others. Just like when you protect yourself, you can protect someone else if you have a reasonable fear that the other person is in instant danger.
Arizona Self-Defense Laws Explained
Self-defense laws outline when a person is free to use physical or deadly force against another person. In Arizona, A.R.S. 13-404 explains the justification of self-defense, stating that force may be used if that person believes:
that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.
A.R.S. 13-405 describes the use of deadly force in the same circumstances, and says that a person is justified in using deadly force if the criteria of A.R.S. 13-404 are met and the person believes the deadly force to be necessary, or if retreat from the situation isn’t possible.
In Arizona, it is crucial to remember that whether or not the use of physical force or deadly physical force was justified in a specific case will be determined by the jury on trial. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using deadly physical force against an intruder unless you believe that you or your family is in immediate danger. Aside from criminal charges, the family of a victim of self-defense may seek restitution in a civil trial.
Exceptions to Self-Defense in Arizona
However, the statutes go on to state that self-defense is not justified for solely verbal altercations, or if one is being arrested with lawful force from a police officer.
The law also precludes those who provoked the other person into making the unlawful physical force unless they’ve made an effort to withdraw from the situation, or the other person continues to use force against the person who provoked the situation.
Example of Arizona Self-Defense Laws
In November 2011, David Appleton was followed by another car, a result of a road rage altercation that happened on a main street. When Appleton pulled over, he removed his handgun from his glove compartment and set it on the seat.
Minutes later, the driver who followed him approached the car, and according to Appleton, began choking him through the driver side window. Appleton nearly lost consciousness, but before reaching that point, grabbed his gun and shot the driver, Tom Pearson.
Appleton was initially charged with second-degree murder, but he claimed to have acted in self-defense. A grand jury could not hand an indictment in, nearly 15 months later, and Appleton was found not guilty.
This is just one example of the self-defense laws in Arizona, and many cases appear each year that test the requisites and limitations of the law.
Do You Need a Proactive Self-Defense Lawyer?
If you’ve acted in self-defense and have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, contact JacksonWhite criminal law attorneys.
The team at JacksonWhite defend the rights of an individual to use force to protect themselves. If you felt the need to use physical or deadly physical force to protect yourself or your family in Arizona, it is highly suggested that you retain the guidance of an experienced JacksonWhite criminal defense attorney immediately.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.
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