Oklahoma and Self-Defense Laws

What is self-defense?

Self-defense is a defense to a charge of a violent crime and a legal justification for intentionally hurting or killing another person. Self-defense occurs when someone who is currently being physically harmed or is threatened with immediate physical harm uses physical force that will to stop or avoid the harm.

Self-defense is a defense to a charge of a violent crime.

Self-defense is the intentional use of force with the only purpose of subduing an attacker by causing the attacker pain or physical injury. For example, a perpetrator may grab a victim’s arm, and the victim kicks the perpetrator in the groin or pepper sprays the perpetrator’s face. The perpetrator lets go and runs away. There is no more need for self-defense. This means that if the victim chases the perpetrator down and beats them to death, it’s not self-defense.

A plea of self-defense is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one that the defendant has to prove. For example, someone charged with assault for punching someone in the face may plea self-defense. This person has to prove that punching the person in the face was an intentional use of force required to keep the attacker from hurting them.

Self-defense is also an absolute defense. This means that if a court finds that a defendant acted in self-defense, the court will find in favor of the defendant, as there are no more issues for the court to examine.

Why allow self-defense?

Sometimes, the only way victims can protect themselves is to inflict pain or physical damage that makes the perpetrator unable to continue attacking. People have a right to protect themselves. As a society, we also don’t want to embolden those who want to hurt others by making it illegal to use force to stop an attack. Also, if the possible consequence of trying to harm someone is possibly having the same amount of harm inflicted on yourself, then you may think twice about harming someone.

How much force can someone in Oklahoma use in self-defense?

In Oklahoma, the force used must match the force of the injury expected. This means that one can only use the amount of force they reasonably believe is necessarily to keep the attacker from hurting them.

A victim who reasonably believes their own life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger may use deadly force. (This also applies if someone is in their own home or business, under the “Make My Day” law). For example, if a mugger were to brandish a gun and demand a victim’s wallet, the victim may reasonably believe the mugger intends to use that gun at close range. It may therefore be justified if the victim uses their gun first.

What about trying to get away?

As a practical matter, if it’s safer to get away from someone than fight back, do so. However, in some states other than Oklahoma, a person is not allowed to use to force in self-defense unless they have no opportunity to get away. However, in Oklahoma, no one is required to retreat. In fact, the “Make My Day” and “Stand Your Ground” laws specifically state that Oklahomans don’t have to try to escape before resorting to self-defense.

What is the “Make My Day” Law?

In Oklahoma, it is presumed that breaking into a building or dwelling is done with the intent to do harm. In this state, citizens have an absolute right to feel safe at home or in their own place of business. Thus, a person can use deadly force to protect their home, their place of business, themselves, their property, and the other people in those places if:

  • there is a forcible, unlawful entry into the home or place of business,
  • the owner or dweller has a reasonable belief that they, their property, or others in the home or business are in danger, or
  • if someone is trying to unlawfully remove a person from the home or business against their will.

For example, if a robber breaks into a home, the homeowner may also use a gun in self-defense because it is reasonably assumed that the homeowner could be killed, and the homeowner has the right to protect themselves, their property, and anyone else in the home. However, it’s not self-defense to shoot someone breaking into the vacant house across the street.

What is the “Stand Your Ground” Law?

Oklahoma’s “Stand Your Ground” Law states that anyone who is anywhere they have a lawful right to be and is not doing something illegal does not have a duty to retreat and may use force to fend off an attacker. It’s similar in many respects to “Make My Day,” except that “Stand Your Ground” has a broader application to places outside one’s home or business. For example, everyone who is on the sidewalk and not breaking the law has the right to defense themselves if someone is trying to hurt them. The victim isn’t required to run down the block or run into a building.

If you have had to fend off an attacker or an intruder, you may have acted in self-defense. If you are charged with a crime because you fended off an attacker or intruder, you may be able to claim self-defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you.

What counts as self defense

What to do if I shot somebody in self defense?

Imagine you’re sleeping in your bed and hear rustling in your home. You grab your gun and walk out of your bedroom only to find an intruder — also armed with a gun — in your home and going through your belongings. You yell at the burglar to get out, and he raises his gun. Without hesitation, you fire your weapon in self defense. So, what happens now?

The immediate aftermath of shooting someone in self-defense requires extremely quick thinking, a task that’s made harder when your body is full of adrenaline and shaking from what just happened.

What do you do in the immediate aftermath of a self-defense shooting?

  • The first thing you have to do is make sure the person you shot is no longer a threat.
  • After you have ensured your safety, call 911. Tell them there’s been a shooting. Tell them how many people are injured. Ask for an ambulance. Do not leave the scene.
  • While waiting for police to arrive, communicate with any witnesses and make sure they remain on scene to give statements as well.
  • Don’t taint any potential evidence in your favor. Make sure the scene is secured.
  • When police arrive, surrender the weapon you used and make sure officers can see your hands at all times.
  • When police ask what happened, tell them as little as possible while still being cooperative. You can explain that someone went after you with a weapon and you defended yourself. You can also tell them that any other statements will be made after you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney, which you will need — even if you were justified in the shooting.

What next?

What happens next depends on whether you were arrested at the scene:

  • Sometimes, when the incident is an obvious case of self-defense, you won’t be taken away in handcuffs or detained.
  • If you leave the scene in handcuffs and are taken to a police station, again, do not answer anymore questions or submit written statements before talking privately with an attorney.
  • If you and your attorney decide you will give a statement to police, make sure your statements remain consistent throughout the entire investigation and/or criminal trial. Investigators and prosecutors will look for holes in your story and use them against you later.

What happens in the weeks and months after the shooting?

If you were not arrested at the scene, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be charged with a crime.

Sometimes, investigations can take weeks or months before charges are filed. If you are charged with a crime in connection with the self-defense shooting, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate this complicated and trauma-filled case.

Your attorney will have to successfully argue that the shooting was justified, while prosecutors will try to convince a judge or jury that the act was a crime.

Despite your knowing that what you did was in self-defense, proving your actions were justified in a court of law is no easy task.

If you or someone you love is in need of criminal representation, contact the office of Jacqui Ford today.

Hero or Murderer? When self defense blurs the line.

An Ada, Oklahoma, man is making headlines across the country after he shot and killed a neighbor who was trying to drown his 3-month-old twins in a bathtub.

Cash Freeman rushed over to a neighbor’s house during a domestic dispute at the neighbor’s home, only to find Leland Foster trying to drown the babies in the tub.

Freeman shot and killed Foster. He told authorities he did what he had to do to save the babies, but was he justified in the killing?

That will ultimately be up to the district attorney to decide.

KFOR reached out to Jacqui Ford, Oklahoma City defense attorney who has experience in the laws of self-defense.

Ford explained that in Oklahoma, deadly force is justified while defending others “if that person’s belief is reasonable that that person is in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death.”

“Sometimes, people must be stopped and, sometimes, homicide is the only way to stop them,” Ford told KFOR.

Justifiable homicide is defined in Oklahoma as force that is used because a person reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent “death or great bodily harm” to the person or someone else.

Should Cash Freeman have simply called the police instead of shooting Leland Foster? The answer, Ford said, is not that simple.

“How long does it take to pick up the phone and call those police officers? How long before those police officers arrive? And, by then, is it too late?”

These are all questions that will have to be answered by the local district attorney’s office.

Ford noted that homicide is, by definition, simply the killing of one person by another person. Not all homicides are murders, and not all homicides are criminal or “morally unjust.”

“Sometimes, homicide is justified, and it doesn’t necessarily mean someone needs to go to prison or that anybody did anything wrong,” Ford said.

Neighbors who knew both Freeman and Foster hope that the district attorney will refuse charges. They see Freeman as a hero, not a murderer.

Whether charges will be filed against Cash Freeman remains to be seen, but either way, he should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help guide him through the complicated legal process.

If you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, contact Jacqui Ford’s office today for help.