Assaulting another person is prohibited under Arizona law. However, physical force may be justified in certain circumstances, such as self-defense and crime prevention.
If you’ve acted in self-defense and have been charged with a crime, you should retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Goldman Law can help you defend your freedom against the charges that you’re facing. Our criminal defense lawyer Howard Dworman has successfully handled many self-defense cases, securing the rights and freedoms of our clients. Call us at (602) 698-5520 today to protect your rights.
The Legal Definition of Self-Defense in Arizona
Self-defense refers to the act of using physical or deadly force against another person to protect themselves from the latter’s use or attempted use of unreasonable physical force.
Self-defense is considered as an affirmative or justification defense. This means that when the claim is proven, it extinguishes the legal consequences of an act that would have otherwise been deemed illegal.
When the accused claims self-defense in court, they are not contesting any of the elements of the offense. Instead, they’re saying that what they did was reasonable under the circumstances.
The Use of Assault or Physical Force in Arizona
Under ARS 13-404, the use of physical force may be used if the person believes that it is necessary to protect himself against another person who is using or attempting to use unlawful physical force.
For a self-defense claim to prosper, three elements must exist:
- The force used by the defendant should be reasonable.
- The same force must also be proportional to the threat they’re facing
- The threat should be immediate
To determine whether the amount of force used is reasonable, the court uses the ‘reasonable man test.’ Under this test, the jury determines the typical reaction of a reasonable person if they had been in the shoes of the defendant.
The Use of Deadly Force in Arizona
ARS 13-405 states that deadly force may be used under the same circumstances, or when the person believes that retreating from the situation is impossible.
Essentially, the state allows people to fight—and in certain circumstances, kill—to protect themselves and other people. However, there are limitations to this. Using deadly force may only be justified when they believe that it is necessary to protect themselves against someone else who is also using or attempting to use deadly force. Essentially, deadly force can only be used by someone who has a reasonable fear of immediate injury or death.
Thus, if the defendant was threatened with a gun, it would be reasonable for them to kill or seriously injure the other person in order to save their life. However, if the other person only slapped or punched the defendant, killing or seriously injuring the attacker would be unjustified.
Arizona Stand Your Ground Laws
Although not explicitly titled as such, Arizona has laws that are equivalent to the ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in other states. Under Arizona law, “a person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act.”
This means that if a person is not engaged in a criminal act or if they’re in a place that they have the right to be in, they don’t have to retreat when another person assaults or threatens them. However, the amount of force they use to defend themselves should be reasonable and proportional.
Arizona Castle Law and Defense against Home Intruders
The state also does not have specific castle laws. However, Arizona allows the use of reasonable and immediately necessary physical—and even deadly—force to prevent serious crimes such as burglary, theft, or damage to property. Under the ‘castle doctrine,’ self-defense is justified when the legal occupants or owners of a home or vehicle need to defend themselves against intruders.
Again, only reasonable force may be justified. Thus, if the expected outcome is only the loss of personal property, a person cannot use deadly force. If the thief is armed and threatening to shoot or stab the defendant, then deadly force may be reasonable and necessary.
Defending One’s Property in Arizona
In relation to the castle doctrine, a person may also use reasonable physical force to protect their property. ARS 13-408 states that using force is justifiable if it is “to prevent what a reasonable person would believe is an attempt or commission by the other person of theft or criminal damage involving tangible movable property under his possession or control.” The physical force must be reasonable, immediately necessary, and in proportion to the harm perceived.
Defending Another Person in Arizona
Arizona also permits the use of force to protect another person (a third party) from an aggressor. Under ARS 13-406, a person is justified in using or threatening to use physical force to defend a third party, if this defending person reasonably believes that they would be justified in using the same force as self-defense if they were in the third party’s position. The same elements of self-defense apply when defending a third party.
Arizona Limitation on the Self Defense Claim
Using physical force for self-defense isn’t justified in the following scenarios:
- When the defendant is resisting an arrest by law enforcement officers
- When the defendant is only being verbally threatened or provoked
- When there is provocation on the part of the defendant, unless they’ve already withdrawn and explicitly communicated their intention to withdraw, but the other person continued to attack or use force
- When the defendant injuries or kills an innocent third party because of his reckless actions
Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Arizona
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense while you were defending yourself, your property, or another person, a dedicated Arizona criminal defense attorney will fight for you.
Howard Dworman is a dedicated lawyer with extensive experience in criminal defense. He can help you build your case and defend your freedom. Call us today at (602) 698-5520 to protect your rights.