When can you use deadly force to defend yourself?By
I am always asked by clients when they are justified to use their gun—meaning deadly force. My answer is simply: it depends. This answer is never satisfactory for a client. They want a hard and fast rule. My answer is still it depends.
The law allows a person to use deadly force to defend themselves, a third party, and their home. The law is more complex but, in a nutshell, a person is justified in threatening or using deadly physical force “when and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary.”
What does this mean? What is “reasonable?” What is “immediate?” What is “necessary?” If you point a gun at someone and then claim you were defending yourself, or your friend, or home, you will have to convince a jury of your peers that you were justified. Believe me when I tell you that a jury is going to want a credible explanation from you as to why you had to display or fire your gun.
I have clients who get charged with Aggravated Assault because they threatened someone with their gun. The charge carries a mandatory prison sentence of five to fifteen years. If the police believe that you did not act reasonably under the circumstances, you could wind up in jail.
If you own a gun, I strongly advise that you learn how to use the weapon from a qualified instructor. I also recommend that you obtain your concealed weapons permit. You will be schooled in the law. This is responsible gun ownership.
[Robert J. Campos is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a criminal law specialist. His analysis of the law is based on Arizona law and the United States Constitution. This article is for general information only.]