Last Updated: December 11th, 2023

Can you go to jail for self-defense?

Can You Go To Jail For Self-Defense?

The simple answer is: “Yes, you could go to jail for self-defense.” You could go to jail for lots of things, and that doesn’t mean that you’ve ever done anything wrong in the criminal sense of the word.

There are a lot of myths and stories surrounding what happens if someone comes into your home and tries to rob (or even kill) you. So, what could happen if you commit an act of self-defense? Of course, the most logical answer is that anything could happen.

What we know for certain is that the self-defense industry is growing, with a range of obvious results. There are 1.5 million incidents of using a gun for self-defense every year. Some 68% of women have purchased pepper spray as a self-defense measure. No matter how you defend yourself, there’s always a chance that someone might misinterpret your efforts to protect yourself.

What is Justifiable Homicide?

Justifiable homicide involves the death/killing of a person under circumstances that appear to involve no culpability. In other words, there is no criminal guilt or blame under the law in relation to the death. It could involve self-defense to protect yourself or others.

It could also involve a police officer or other public safety official who is fulfilling his/her public duties.  The consistent message is that the act is not punishable under the law. At the very least, in most cases, there is no sufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing or an intentional criminal act.

What is Self-Defense?

So, self-defense is an act that is meant to protect another person. You may use physical force against another person to stop or reverse a violent action toward oneself or another. There are also four basic factors that come into consideration in the claim of self-defense.

  • Unprovoked attack: With self-defense you’re claiming that the attack was unprovoked (you did nothing to instigate it) and that you were just trying to protect yourself and/or others.
  • Necessity: Again, it was necessary to act in the way you did, as it was the only way to reverse the onslaught of the attack against you.
  • Proportionality: You only used enough force to prevent the attack. You didn’t go overboard with unlawful or unreasonable force. In other words, if you used deadly force, you were only protecting yourself from the certainty of a deadly attack.
  • Reasonable belief: You have reason to believe that force was necessary to defend yourself and to protect others from a violent attack.

Self-defense is open to a great deal of debate and conjecture. How much force is too much? Should a person really be able to kill another person, even if there’s reasonable belief and fear for one’s life? And, what happens when the violent force turns out to be fear of otherness instead of anything routed in real and present danger? While you might believe that you are in danger, you must be prepared to defend your belief and have the proper backup to argue your case.

Why is Self Defense Such a Big Deal Right Now?

More people are exercising their right to self-defense now, but that doesn’t mean that they are following the right protocols or actually defending themselves from what they believe is an unprovoked attack, with necessity, proportionality, and reasonable belief.

You just need to know that if you find yourself in a situation where you must defend yourself, you should go into it with a clear mind, firm actions, and make sure that you are not muddied or befuddled about what happened, how, and why. Imagine that you must remember all the details to tell the judge, because it may just be that you’ll need to (hopefully with a lawyer at your side to defend you).

What About the Police?

When the police arrive at the scene of a self-defense, they typically secure the scene and start taking statements. They will ask questions.

  • How many times did you fire your gun?
  • What other actions did you take in self-defense? Did you run? Did you try to escape?
  • Are you licensed to carry a gun? Do you know how to use a gun?
  • What happened?

The police officers will want you to be as specific as possible, but they will also be looking for inconsistencies in your story. Do you tell it the same way every time? Do the number of shots you fired vary each time you tell it? Does your terror come through sufficiently in your recollections? They are trying to figure out if you’re really telling the truth.

While you’ve probably always believed that you should and must answer all the questions posed to you by a police officer, it’s usually best to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. Be respectful in your answers to the police on the scene, but do not offer any more than is strictly necessary.

What About Medical Care?

In cases of self-defense, seek medical care as soon as possible. Not only are you looking for medical evidence to substantiate your claims, but you need a credible witness who could testify about your state of mind and the injuries you may have sustained during the confrontation.

Even if you feel OK, with no obvious signs of trauma or injury, it’s still important to document what happened and to keep careful records of all significant evidence in the case. So, see a doctor, submit to any scans or exams that they request, and keep records of everything.

Write Down Everything You Remember

Keep notes of what you remember and what happened. You can also keep photos and other medical records in a carefully arranged self-defense file, which you can then hand over to your lawyer when you speak with him/her. The more paperwork you can gather, with details that could answer lots of questions, information is a huge advantage to your legal defense.

Your memory can become faulty, and it’s easy to get confused about what happened, particularly when it was such an emotional and scary time for you. They say that silence is important, and it is. But it’s also important that you know and understand exactly what happened to you, so that your lawyer can mount the most vigorous defense possible.

Next Step: Schedule a Consult with a Lawyer to Learn More About Self-Defense Cases

While you may think you have nothing to worry about, there is always a chance that you could be wrong. You need a legal expert who can review the case with you and offer advice and recommendations on the next steps you should take.

It could be that you’ve done everything right, and you have nothing to worry about. But, if you’re considering legal counsel at all, chances are that the police have already questioned you extensively, and you just don’t know what to expect.

We can help you understand the process, what might happen next, and we can also offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges, even when those charges may have very little basis in truth.

Related ⁄