Justifiable Use of Non-Deadly Force

Non-deadly force means force not likely to cause death or great bodily harm. You would be justified in using non-deadly force against another if the following two facts are proved (1) you reasonably believed that such conduct was necessary to defend yourself or another against your attacker’s imminent use of unlawful force and (2) the use of unlawful force by your attacker must have appeared to be ready to take place.

These are some examples of when you would be justified in using non-deadly force:

  1. Your attacker was trespassing or otherwise wrongfully interfering with your land or personal property.

  2. The land or personal property was lawfully in your possession, or in the possession of a member of your immediate family or household, or in the possession of someone else who was under a legal duty to protect it.

  3. You must have reasonably believed that the use of force was necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s wrongful behavior.

Like with deadly force, you have no duty to retreat when someone unlawfully and by force enters your home or car. Any person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another’s house or vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

Additionally, you have the right to stand your ground. If you are attacked in any place where you have a right to be, you have no duty to retreat and you can meet force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believed that it necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to yourself or another or to prevent a forcible felony.

Use of non-deadly force is not justified if you are the aggressor or committing or attempting to commit a forcible felony yourself. If you are the aggressor, you cannot use force unless you exhaust all reasonable means to escape the force the other person is asserting upon you. If you are the aggressor, you can also return to using non-deadly force if you withdraw from the altercation but the other guy keeps coming at you.

You cannot use force to resist an arrest by police, or to resist a police officer who is engaged in his duties. The caveat again here is that if an officer uses excessive force to effect an arrest, you might be justified in the use of reasonable force to defend yourself, but only to the extent you reasonably believe it necessary.

When the jury contemplates whether you were justified in the use of non-deadly force, they will consider the circumstances that surrounded you at the time the force was used. The danger must have appeared to have been so real that a reasonable person under the same circumstances would have believed that it could only have been avoided through the use of that force.

Jurors may also consider the violent reputation of the other person (assuming you knew of the reputation) and physical characteristics of both of you.

If the jury has a reasonable doubt on the question of whether you were justified in the use of non-deadly force, you should be found not guilty.

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