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4 Things You Should Know About Self-Defense Law

If you’re in danger, it stands to reason that you should be able to defend yourself. Unfortunately, the law is not always as cut and dried as you might think. Below are just a handful of the things that every citizen should understand about self-defense law.

It Varies by State

One of the most important things to remember about self-defense law is that such laws are determined by the individual state. What might be reasonable self-defense in one state might be excessive in another. In addition, the standards for what rises to the level of an actionable threat could be completely different in two different locations. Before you make any choices about how you would defend yourself or your home, you should absolutely take a look at your locality’s relevant laws.

Self-Defense Can Apply to More than Yourself

Self-defense is a nebulous concept that can be used to defend your actions protecting not only people but sometimes property. Some states allow self-defense defenses when a burglar breaks into a home or otherwise attempts to take someone’s property. Other states might not allow a self-defense claim when the property is threatened, but they will allow a defendant to claim self-defense in the service of protecting another person.

Force Matters

The level of force used in self-defense is usually an important factor. If someone breaks into your home, most courts won’t find that defending yourself with a 9mm handgun is excessive, so you could feel safe stocking up on those types of firearms. If someone threatens to punch you, however, the court might not look so kindly on the use of weaponry. Most courts require that the victims stick to a minimal reasonable level of force compared to the threat that they face.

There Can Still be Consequences

Finally, it’s important to remember that a successful self-defense claim isn’t always the end of your legal story. You might be found innocent of a crime but still liable for the injuries of the other party. Remember, the injuries that you cause the other person can still be a civil matter and the thresholds for what is acceptable in terms of use of force and method of defense can be very different under the civil law.

It’s important to understand self-defense laws before you are put in a situation that requires you to defend yourself. You absolutely cannot use deadly force in all circumstances, nor does avoiding criminal consequences mean that you won’t be found liable for injuries. If you have questions about these laws, it’s always a good idea to consult an attorney for more information.

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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