Human beings are complicated, and disputes over seemingly minor issues can suddenly turn dangerous – or even deadly. One night, a small conflict with another person rapidly escalates. Words are exchanged, and you feel threatened or attacked.
You respond with what you believe is necessary force, and the other party dies. When the police arrive, you explain that you acted in self-defense.
Is this a valid excuse? Or are you guilty of a crime? Here’s what you need to know:
What constitutes self-defense in Tennessee?
Everyone has a certain right to protect themselves, their family members and others from harm when the occasion calls for it. If you need to use force to do that, you may be justified.
Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 11, Section 39-11-611 says that you have no legal duty to retreat from a place when you have a right to be there and aren’t engaged in anything unlawful. This is often referred to as the right to “stand your ground.”
To invoke self-defense as justification for lethal force, you need to show that you genuinely believed the danger to yourself or others was imminent, real and reasonable.
The use of force is not justified if:
- You instigate or provoked the other person’s initial attack
- You consent to the other person’s use of force
- You resist the police’s attempt to stop you at a roadblock, search you or your premises, or resist arrest by using deadly force
The law can be confusing, and it’s often hard to say how a prosecutor will view any given situation. It’s best to consult an experienced legal guide to help you navigate a self-defense claim in court if you do get charged with some form of murder.