Can You Stand Your Ground in New York City?

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Can You Stand Your Ground in New York City?


A “stand-your-ground” law allows people to use deadly force when they believe it to be necessary to defend against great harm or deadly force. Under these laws, an individual has no duty to retreat.

Here in New York, such laws do not exist. You have a duty to retreat in New York if you know you can do so “with complete personal safety to yourself and others.” However, New York also does not impose a duty to retreat in your own home if you were not the initial aggressor. This is known as New York’s “castle doctrine.”

Yet there are limits even under castle doctrine. You are permitted to use force, but not deadly force, to stop vandalism or theft, but you may only use deadly force if you believe an arson, kidnapping, assault, or murder. 

Perception Matters

When you assault someone, even in self-defense, or kill them, you could find yourself embroiled in a criminal case. This isn’t television: the cops aren’t just going to say ‘okay, good job’ if you say ‘it was in self-defense’ after they find a body at your feet. 

If you’ve shot someone, you may well get arrested.

One of the things your defense attorney will have to prove, if self-defense is indeed the defense they’re going to use, is that you had a reasonable belief that the person you hurt was going to harm you or someone else. If in your home, you must have a reasonable belief they intended to commit a burglary, an arson, or an act of physical violence.

Keep in mind that in any self-defense case the response must be proportionate to the violence you feared.

In addition, we’ll need to be able to prove that you were in your home if we’re going to use the “castle doctrine.” You can’t shoot someone who is just standing in your yard, no matter how threatening they might look.

If you used a gun, we’re also going to have to prove that the gun itself was legal, and that you followed all state laws in regards to owning a gun.

Don’t Wait to Get Help

If you’ve been in an altercation with someone call a lawyer immediately, before the police get to you if possible. Self-defense truly may not be enough to prevent a murder charge or an assault charge. 

Don’t try to use self-defense to try to talk the police out of arresting you either. Maintain your right to remain silent. All you will do by talking is hand evidence over to the prosecution that they can use to put you in jail. 

A justifiable act of defense is a good defense, but as we’ve discussed on this blog it is not a “slam-dunk” defense. If you’re in trouble, call us right away.

See also:

Is Self-Defense a Slam-Dunk Defense?

Ghost Guns: Now Illegal in New York

Is My Weapon Illegal in NYC? 


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