Deadly Force and Self Defense

Anyone charged with a crime in Utah should be aware of all possible defenses to their charges. Unfortunately, some individuals faced with criminal charges never fully disclose relevant facts to their attorney and therefore all their possible defenses in a case are never explored. This is often the case when self defense might apply. The purpose of this post is to provide a summary of self defense and the use of deadly force that occasionally arises as defense in criminal matters. This discussion below should not be construed as legal advice and should never be substituted for a detailed consultation with a criminal defense lawyer. However, this is a good starting point to get general background information for self defense and deadly force so you can more fully explore any possible issues with an attorney. To speak with a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer at our office, call, phone, text, or email anytime.

  1. Self Defense and Deadly Force – Most people understand the basics of self defense and how it applies to violent crimes. However, we receive many question about using deadly force and when such force is legally justified. Generally speaking, in Utah, deadly force may be used if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Additionally, deadly force may be used to prevent the commission of a forcible felony such as rape, murder, etc. In Utah, there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force, meaning you do not have to first try and escape the attacker before defending yourself. However, failure to retreat may be taken into consideration by a jury when deciding whether or not it was “reasonable” for the person to engage in the self defense conduct.
  2. Defense of Habitation – Under some circumstances, you may use force, and even deadly force, in defense of your home. If a person enters your home in a violent manner and you reasonably believe the intruder is entering your home to assault or commit violence against anyone in the home, deadly force may be justified. However, under circumstance just mentioned, you would still need to demonstrate that deadly force was necessary to prevent the entry.
  3. Defense of Other’s Real Property – In some case, deadly force may even be used in defense of property other than your home. In general, a person may use deadly force in defense of real property other than their home if (1) the persona in lawful possession of the property; (2) the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the intruder from trespassing; (3) the trespass occurs through use of force or in a violent manner; (4) the person reasonably believes the trespass is for the purpose of committing violence or a forcible felony, or  is necessary to prevent violence or a forcible felony.

If you are charged with a crime and believe you have a self defense claim, call and speak with a member of our team right away. We can usually tell you right over the phone what we think about your possible defenses or we are happy to schedule a free consultation in one of our offices in your area.

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