New York City can be a dangerous place, with hundreds of muggings, robberies, burglaries, and assaults happening every week. It behooves everyone to know the state laws regarding self-defense, particularly self-defense in situations involving deadly weapons.
The New York penal code (NYPL article 35) states that the use of physical force is justified in self-defense, in defense of another person, or in order to prevent theft or criminal damage to property.
The law further states that you may use physical force upon another person to the extent you reasonably believe necessary to defend yourself or another person from what you reasonably believe to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force. Let us unpack that sentence.
When can you use physical force against another person? This will be judged based on the circumstances as viewed through the eyes of a “reasonable” person. Your attacker must have already attacked or given you clear reason to believe they are going to attack. Displaying a knife or gun in a threatening manner would qualify. The attack must also be unlawful. Peace officers, for example, have lawful authority to use physical force to restrain another person. You cannot fight back in such situations and claim self-defense.
What amount of force can you use? Only the amount that you “reasonably believe necessary” to defend yourself or another person. For example, if someone slaps you or shoves you, you are generally not justified in pulling out a gun and killing them.
When can you use deadly force? New York has both a “duty to retreat” clause and a “castle doctrine” clause. The law says that you may use deadly force when you reasonably believe the attacker is using or about to use deadly force. In most situations outside your own home, you have a limited duty to retreat. Specifically, you may not use deadly force if you know that you and any others under attack can, with complete personal safety, retreat. The words “know” and “complete” provide some leeway for judgment. Within your own home, as long as you were not the initial aggressor, you do not have a duty to retreat.
You may also use deadly force against a person who is in the process of committing a kidnapping, forcible rape, robbery, arson, or burglary of a residence or occupied building. These crimes are considered heinous enough that you are allowed to shoot or club the offender in order to save the victim(s) from serious injury or death.
To prevent the commission of a crime involving property damage, criminal trespass, or theft from an unoccupied building, you may use reasonable physical force but not deadly force.
Talk to Our Distinguished Manhattan Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of physical assault but believe you were justified in acting in defense of yourself or others, you will want to aggressively fight these charges. When you choose the firm of JOEY JACKSON LAW, PLLC, you get a team of New York City criminal defense lawyers with over 25 years experience in the toughest criminal courts in the country. Call 833-JOEYJACKSON or 833-563-9522 now.