Defending yourself against an attacker seems like a natural thing to do – but a lot of people still end up in handcuffs after they’ve been in an altercation of some kind.
Sometimes, the police simply make a bad call and arrest someone whose actions were well within their right to self-defense. Other times, people just don’t quite understand how far their right to self-defense goes – and where it stops.
Arizona has specific laws that address this issue
- You can use force (violence) to protect yourself when it is reasonable to believe that your actions are immediately necessary to protect yourself.
- This includes the use of deadly force, when that amount of force is reasonable and proportionate to the danger being posed by the other party.
- You do not have a duty to retreat before using force if you are in a place you are legally allowed to be and not doing anything illegal while you’re there.
You cannot, however, claim self-defense if you were resisting arrest (even if the arrest was unlawful) so long as the police officer in question didn’t exceed the legal use of force. You also cannot claim self-defense if you provoked the other party – unless you clearly tried to withdraw and the other party wouldn’t let you, nor may you use this defense if your use of force was a response to mere words.
In practical terms, this generally means you can’t claim self-defense if you were trespassing and got attacked by the property owner. Nor can you claim self-defense if you threw the first punch in a fight, even if the other person verbally insulted you first. It also stops being self-defense once the other guy throws up their hands and tries to back away or when you return a shove with a knife attack.
If you’ve been arrested for a violent crime and you were just defending yourself, it’s wise to learn more about your legal options right away.