Certified Criminal Law Specialist in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ
Oct
03

When can you use deadly force to defend yourself?

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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.]

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