Nobody wins when someone dies in the name of self-defense. Those left behind to argue the points of whether a homicide was actually justifiable or vice-versa wonder if things could have been different, if the split-second decisions made in the heat of the moment could somehow have had less tragic consequences. Self-defense can be difficult to definitively prove or disprove, chiefly because so much of it rests on one person’s interpretation of another person’s intentions. While some people have used a claim of self-defense to get away with murder, others have been unfairly prosecuted for defending their own lives.
Certainly, there is a fine line between self-defense and murder. The blurriness of that line is nowhere more evident than in the 2012 fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. The debate over that case brought Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” into the spotlight — despite the fact that the controversial “no duty to retreat” aspect of the law was never invoked. Instead, the defense’s argument in the Martin case was that the defendant used deadly force because he “reasonably” believed that it was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury.
In general, killing another person is not a criminal act if you reasonably believe that you (or another person) are in imminent danger of losing your life or of suffering serious bodily injury such that using deadly force against that person is immediately necessary to avoid the threat. Previously, the law required people to take a step back before using lethal force on someone posing a threat. Beginning with Florida in 2005, states started adopting various versions of the stand-your-ground law that removed the common-law duty to retreat before using deadly force. While people who kill armed intruders in their homes have long been protected under the legal idea that because your home is your castle you have the right to use lethal force to defend it (or at least those inside of it), many states have expanded that use of deadly force beyond the home. For example, Kentucky law allows deadly force, with no duty to retreat, when you believe such force is necessary to protect yourself from death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat, or felony involving threat. You can use deadly force at your home, workplace, or inside your vehicle and anywhere else you legally have the right to be.
While people who posses a valid fear that they would be hurt or killed can respond with deadly force, each situation is unique and must be carefully examined. There are no standard answers to questions such as whether deadly force is justified if the attacker has no weapon or is subdued or is chased. Under the appropriate circumstances, self-defense can be a valuable part of a defense strategy. Someone who uses self-defense against an attacker should consult with an attorney as soon after the incident as possible to make sure their rights are protected.
If you (or a loved one) have been arrested in Kentucky or in the Lexington area in particular, call my office at (859) 685-1055 for a free consultation. Our lawyers specialize in helping defendants fight back on assault charges, misdemeanors, domestic violence, property crimes, drug charges and more, call today.