Defending yourself, your family or your possessions against criminal actions is a widely accepted principle, but specific rules as to how this is administered will vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In cases of self-defense, you have the right to use enough force or violence to stop or counteract force or violence that is being attempted to be used against you. While this sounds simple enough, the degree to which a person can use force creates a serious grey area that has been the focus of many heated cases in recent years.
States have developed general guidelines to help administer self-defense laws. Many of these can be fully fleshed out by an experienced self-defense attorney defending a person accused of overstepping their self-defense rights.
An imminent threat – A person may only use self-defense measures when it is in response to an immediate threat. The threat must be one that puts a person in immediate physical harm. Yelling and threatening a person and then stopping may not be met by a physical self-defense response because the immediate threat has passed. Such an act is considered retaliatory.
A reasonable perception of harm – Self-defense can be justified if a reasonable person in a similar situation would view the acts as potentially, immediately harmful whether they were intended to be or not.
A proportional response – You can only use self-defense to the same degree as the threat in question. If a person attempts to use deadly force against you, then you can safely use deadly force against them. But if the threat is much less than that, you will overstep your legal bounds if you still use deadly force as a self-defense response.
The Castle Doctrine – In most states, a person can use deadly force against someone who unlawfully enters their home.
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