No one plans on having to use deadly force to defend themselves from harm. If someone breaks into your home, attacks you in the streets or otherwise places you in fear of imminent bodily harm, however, you may have no choice but to shoot the assailant in self-defense. In this life-or-death situation, it is important to understand your legal rights under Arizona law. You must recognize when the use of deadly force is justified and when it is considered a crime.
Whether or not you had the legal right to shoot someone in Arizona is based on if the situation reasonably called for the use of deadly force. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-405 states that a person is justified in using deadly physical force against someone else – or threatening to use deadly force – when the individual believes that it is immediately necessary to protect against the assailant’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force.
Section 13-404 of the law specifically defines self-defense. It states that an individual is justified in threatening or using physical force against someone else when a reasonable person would believe that this use of force was immediately necessary to protect himself or herself against the assailant’s use or threat of unlawful physical force. ARS Section 13-406 says that the use of deadly force is also justified in the defense of someone else if a reasonable party would have believed it necessary.
Arizona’s self-defense law continues to state that the use of physical or deadly force is not justified in response to verbal provocation alone or to resist an arrest – even if the peace officer appears to be using unnecessary force. If the individual provoked the assailant’s use of force, this would also bar the self-defense argument unless the individual withdrew from the altercation and the assailant continued to use unlawful physical force. It is worth noting that if an innocent person is injured or killed in the shooting, this is also not justified under the self-defense argument.
Arizona’s justification of the use of deadly physical force law states that a person has no duty to retreat if he or she is in a place where he or she may lawfully be, such as on public property or private property with permission from the owner, as long as the individual is not engaged in a criminal act. This is often referred to as a “Stand Your Ground Law,” although Arizona does not specifically have a law under that name.
Assaulting another person is prohibited in Arizona under criminal law. However, there are exceptions when using force against someone else is justified, meaning there is a good reason to have to harm or shoot someone. For the most part, you must believe that the assailant is going to use unlawful force against you or a loved one to avoid criminal charges for shooting someone. Protecting your property alone is not a lawful reason to use deadly force against another individual. If you are faced with a home intruder during a burglary, however, Arizona law does allow you to use deadly force – even if you later learn that the burglar did not have a weapon.
Being a smart, safe and legal gun owner can help you protect yourself against criminal consequences for shooting someone in Arizona. You must follow all state and federal gun laws, including being old enough to own a weapon in public. You should know when it is legal and when it is not legal to use physical force or a deadly weapon against someone. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation where you end up shooting someone in self-defense, contact AZ Defenders for legal advice. Our Phoenix firearm crimes defense attorney can explain Arizona’s self-defense laws and how they apply to your case in more detail.