Turn your television on and tune in to your favorite news channel. It’s unlikely you’ll have to wait too long before the topic of gun control arises. The discussion is one being had around the world primarily due to the increased number of mass shootings, but also as a result of numerous fatal shootings involving individuals claiming self-defense.
The laws regarding self-defense vary from state to state. Considerations like “necessary use of force” and one’s “duty to retreat” help define self-defense and, depending on one’s interpretation, can be the difference between someone justifiably protecting himself and being sent to prison.
If someone were to enter your home unlawfully, do you know if you have the right to use deadly force or are you required to retreat? The average person doesn’t find out the answer to this question until after it’s too late. It’s essential to know your rights as a Louisiana resident, even more so if you’re a gun owner. Join us as we look into Louisiana’s self-defense laws and how they apply to you.
What is Self-Defense?
The term ‘self-defense’ defines one’s legal right to protect him or herself from harm under qualifying circumstances. Courts at the federal and state level accept self-defense claims. The sustainability of the claim relies heavily on whether there was an immediate threat of harm and if the fear of harm was reasonable among others.
The law warrants self-defense in response to both verbal and physical threats of violence; however, a verbal threat alone does not justify self-defense if it it not accompanied by threats of immediate harm. Another area to consider is the immediacy of the threat. Once the threat ends, one cannot claim any following violent actions to be in self-defense.
Fear of Harm
One can also claim self-defense in situations where there may not have been any immediate harm or threat of harm. In defining self-defense, the law references whether a “reasonable person” would’ve seen the same actions as an immediate threat of physical harm.
A self-defense claim will stand if the court concludes that a reasonable person in the same situation would’ve acted similarly.
Duty to Retreat
‘Duty to retreat’ is the verbiage used in many state’s self-defense laws. Having the duty to retreat means that one must first attempt to flee the situation before using lethal force. In states where there is a duty to retreat, one cannot claim self-defense when he or she uses deadly force without initially attempting to flee.
In 2005, Florida lifted the duty to retreat and allowed individuals to stand their ground. Soon thereafter, Louisiana and over 20 other states followed suit.
Louisiana Castle Doctrine
Before stand your ground laws caught on in Louisiana, the castle doctrine was the law of the land. These self-defense statutes gave individuals the right to use lethal force to protect oneself when they are on their property. The law considers one’s car and home to be one’s “castle,” which makes use of deadly force in self-defense warranted in both instances.
The Louisiana castle doctrine expanded the scope of justifiable homicide, but it did nothing to protect individuals who felt threatened away from their property. The implementation of stand your ground laws added to the castle doctrine and introduced an unprecedented amount of protection for individuals who use lethal force, or otherwise, in self-defense.
Louisiana Stand Your Ground Laws
Louisiana’s stand your ground laws are the exact opposite of the former duty to retreat. R.S. 14:19(c) of the Louisiana Criminal Code states:
“A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using force or violence as provided for in this Section and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”
The statute continues to say that a judge may not consider the possibility of retreat to determine whether or not the person used force justifiably.
Stand your ground differs from many of the self-defense laws to come before it as it permitted individuals to use deadly force in any situation when they feel an immediate threat of danger and not only in their homes or cars.
Asserting a Self-Defense Claim
When claiming self-defense, one must be able to establish and prove four very fundamental elements: an unprovoked attack, imminent injury or death, a reasonable degree of force, and reasonable fear of injury. One’s ability to prove all of these in court can be the difference between walking free and facing homicide charges.
Best prepare yourself for a potential legal battle by acquiring a seasoned criminal defense lawyer.
Louisiana criminal defense attorney Eric G. Johnson with the John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm is a highly respected lawyer who has experience representing individuals facing a range of criminal charges. Eric can analyze the facts of your case, inform you of your options, and provide sound criminal defense to all presented charges. Contact us today at 318-377-1555 for a free case evaluation.