Self Defense in Arizona: What does it really mean?

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Carissa A Jakobe

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Serving Phoenix, AZ

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  • Free initial consultation, Credit cards accepted

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Serving Phoenix, AZ

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Criminal Defense Attorney, Carissa Jakobe, Answers the question. 

In Arizona the law allows an individual to claim that he or she was justified in using physical force to defend against or prevent an assault. Self-defense, however, must be reasonable under the circumstances at the time of the altercation. In short, this means that the mind state of the individual using self-defense must be such that if another person placed him or herself in that same situation, they would have acted in the same manner. For example, if an individual punches another person in the face in order to prevent that person from punching first, a claim of self-defense could be valid. Self-defense is not a valid claim, however, if it is used in response to verbal threats or provocation, or if the person claiming self-defense is the one who provoked or attempted to start the fight first. So, someone running their mouth is not a legal reason for a person to go on the offensive, attack and then claim self-defense later. In fact, that person can and most likely will be charged with assault.

In like vein, Arizonans also have the right to use physical force in the defense of another person that they believe, under the circumstances, needs their assistance in preventing an attack or suffering further physical harm.

The use of or threatening deadly physical force in a self-defense case is only permissible if the individual believes that such deadly physical force is immediately necessary in order to protect himself against another’s use of or attempted use of deadly physical force (i.e. weapons of any kind are used or brandished, someone is stabbed, etc.).

Each self-defense case is distinct and unique from the next; no situation is the same. Therefore, an intensive fact finding process is necessary in order re-create the event to objectively show that the person defending himself was justified. Simply put, if another person were to hypothetically be placed in the exact same situation and would have used the same amount of force, then self-defense is justified. It is also important to note that a person claiming self-defense has no duty to retreat or walk away from the situation so long as that person is legally entitled to be in that particular location and is not engaged in any unlawful activity. The use or threatened use of deadly physical force also applies to third parties, i.e. in defense of another person in order to protect them.

Physical force may also be justified when defending one’s premises against a trespass. Arizona defines “premises” as any real property and any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not. It should be noted if deadly physical force is threatened/used in order to protect one’s property, then the requirements for self-defense must also be met. A person is also allowed to use physical force to prevent a theft or criminal damage to property within his control.This applies to tangible movable property such as a wallet, bicycle, car, motorcycle, etc.

A person is also allowed to use physical or deadly physical force, depending upon the situation, in order to prevent the following crimes: arson, residential burglary, manslaughter, first or second degree murder, sexual conduct with a minor, sexual assault, child molestation, and aggravated assault. There is no duty to retreat and the person is justified in using physical force if he reasonably believes any one of the offenses listed is about to occur or actually being committed. Arizona’s “Crime Prevention” statute may be used anywhere in the State of Arizona that a person has the lawful right to be.

Brandishing a weapon in order to prevent oneself from the use of or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force is also permissible as a defense. This often occurs, for example, when a person is in danger because he is being physically threatened near his vehicle and then reaches in the center console to show the attacker that he is armed and to get back. Arizona’s “Defensive Display of a Firearm” statute covers the following actions: (1) verbally informing another person that he is in possession of a firearm; exposing or displaying a firearm in order to protect that person from unlawful physical force or deadly physical force; and placing the person’s hand on a firearm while the firearm is contained in a pocket, purse or other means of containment or transport.

Most importantly, the key to a successful self-defense case is the ability able to show that the amount of force used to protect one’s self, friend, or property was absolutely necessary and equal to the amount of force they were threatened with in order to prevent an attack or protect one’s person from further physical injury. Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney

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