Picture this. You are on your way to your car after a long work day. You are so tired and ready to get home and relax. Unfortunately, your day is about to go from bad to worse. Some person you may or may not know steps out from behind your car and brandishes a gun toward you, and you know immediately that you are being robbed.
The intelligent thing to do, as you well know, is to hand over your valuables since your life is worth so much more.
As your robber gets close, they begin to batter you. Fists fly, and the gun cracks across your skull, but you get it out of their hands. They keep moving toward you and tell you they will kill you.
You do what you have to do to stay alive; you grab the fallen gun and fire at your assailant. They drop to the ground dead, and police arrive.
This situation is not uncommon in the world we live in.
Gun violence is a national epidemic, and thousands are victims every year. As such, laws have developed to help protect people forced to make split-second decisions like what you just read.
Let’s share with you the differences between self defense, defense of others, and the defense of your property.
Self-defense is an affirmative defense to a charge of assault or homicide.
Simply, it means that you did what you did because you had to do so to protect yourself. For this defense to even come up, you must first be charged with the assault or homicide of the person who initially attacked you.
For the defense of self-defense to be applicable, the person who acted in self-defense must have been in reasonable fear for their safety. There must have been a threat of severe bodily injury or death that could only have been prevented by violent action.
In many states, there is a “duty to retreat,” which means that you must make reasonable steps to get away from the violence and that you can only act in self-defense if it is the only way to prevent harm.
In Missouri, this does not apply. Missouri follows a few states by stating that you have a right to defend yourself in any place you are legally allowed to be in. This includes your home, work, favorite restaurant, or even just in the street.
In most states, you are not allowed to claim self-defense when the force you used was disproportionate to the violence you would have been victim to.
For example, if you are being threatened by a person, who does not appear to be physically capable of much damage, and you shoot and kill them, you are less likely to be able to use the defense of self-defense as your force was not reasonable.
On the other hand, if a bodybuilder is beating you, you are more likely to be able to use self-defense as a legal defense if you shoot and kill the attacker to protect yourself.
Defense of Others
Sometimes you are faced with a choice of evils. Do you let someone get assaulted, or do you act to try and save them?
The doctrine of defense of others allows you to act to prevent serious bodily injury or death of another.
You must still ensure the force you are using is reasonable concerning the harm the third-party faces.
The same example of self-defense applies here. If the attacker is not doing serious damage, you cannot use deadly force. This is not to say that you can do nothing.
You can force the attacker to back away by fighting them off or physically removing them from their would-be victim. You can still help without resorting to deadly force.
Defense of your Property
In Missouri, you are allowed to use physical force, but not deadly force, to prevent what you reasonably believe to be the commission of a person stealing, property damage, or tampering.
This includes the physical restraint of the individual stealing or damaging your property. Deadly force can only be used for self-defense or defense of others, as you have just read.
To use these defenses, you must first be charged with assault or homicide.
These are severe charges, and you must receive knowledgeable criminal defense representation.
You are in good hands here at Hale-Robinson & Robinson, LLC.