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When is self-defense valid?

You may be hard-pressed to find someone in Gainesville who has not heard of one claiming self-defense when responding to criminal accusations. In fact, it may seem that such a defense is so common that it has lost its credibility as a valid justification. Yet there very well may be scenarios where you feel threatened to the point of needing to respond with action (in some cases, even lethal force). The question then becomes when are you legally justified to do so? 

Georgia's self-defense law is clearly spelled out in Section 16-3-21 of the state's Crimes and Offenses Code. Here it states that you are indeed justified in using force against yourself and/or others if you believe that it is needed in order to prevent such action from being used against you. The standard against which your intent in the matter is judged is whether or not a reasonable person in the same situation would have reached the same conclusions. 

This seems to leave a great deal open to interpretation. For this reason, the state has clearly outlined scenarios where you are not justified in defending yourself and/or others by force. These include: 

  • If you provoke one into wanting to assault you with the intention of using force against them 
  • If your use of defensive force occurs as you are in the process of committing a felony
  • If you initiated or engaged in combat with another, and then attempted to flee from the fight without clearly communicating your intent to do so to the other party

In terms of using lethal force, you are only justified in doing so if you have reason to believe nothing short of it will help prevent another from killing or seriously injuring you or others. 

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