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Criminal Defense

Claiming Self-Defense in Oklahoma: What You Need To Know

By December 8, 2020April 5th, 2024No Comments

Thriller movies and cop shows are filled with people claiming “self-defense” after a crime, but how often does that really happen?

If you really were acting in self-defense, is that a sufficient way to be found innocent? How complicated of a claim is it to prove?

In this blog, we’ll take a look at what self-defense in the law really looks like and whether it’s ever a viable defense in Oklahoma cases.

What qualifies as self-defense in Oklahoma law?

Although we think we may have a clear idea of what self-defense cases look like, the truth is often much more complicated. 

Some situations that may seem to be clear cases of self-defense at first glance do not actually qualify as self-defense under Oklahoma law. On the other hand, cases that may not seem like a typical self-defense situation may be proven to be so when a trained defense attorney takes a second look. 

Typically, the American justice system has 4 requirements for self-defense (with exceptions):

  1. You must prove that you were confronted with an unprovoked attack. 
  2. You must prove that the threat of injury or death was imminent (about to happen). 
  3. You must prove that the degree of force you used in self-defense was reasonable under the circumstances. 
  4. You must prove that you had a reasonable fear that you were going to be injured/killed unless you used self-defense. 

Oklahoma law defines justifiable homicide in 21 O.S. § 733 (paraphrased):

  • When resisting any attempt of murder or any felony, particularly while in this person’s dwelling/house; 
  • When committed in the lawful defense of one’s self or of another, when the person using force reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another; or
  • When necessarily committed in attempting to lawfully stop a person from committing a felony, lawfully stopping a riot, or lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.

What about “Stand Your Ground”?

Oklahoma has a “Stand Your Ground” law that mirrors very closely the Florida Stand Your Ground law that made national headlines after George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law states: 

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

In many instances, (and probably because of Trayvon Martin’s killing) people tend to associate Stand Your Ground cases with shootings, but that’s not always the case. However, if you need more information regarding self-defense cases specifically regarding shootings.)

What is the “Make My Day” law?

Oklahoma has another related law called 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, but citizens have an absolute right to feel safe at home or in their own place of business (this is known as the “Castle Doctrine”). 

So in any of the following situations, a person can use deadly force to protect their home, their place of business, themselves, their property, and the other people in those places:

  • 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

Some self defense examples

To better understand self-defense and justifiable homicide laws in Oklahoma, here are some examples of cases when these laws might apply:

  • 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. 
  • If someone is guarding a place of business known for break-ins, they may shoot an intruder because it is reasonably assumed the person breaking in poses a threat. 
  • If someone attacks a person on the street with the intent to harm or rob them, many cases have found that the person can use whatever weapon they have available to defend themself.

Hire Jacqui Ford Law for help with your defense today

Jacqui Ford Law has in-depth knowledge and experience with self-defense cases of all types. If you think your case qualifies as self-defense, we’ll work with you to understand your case and build a defense. Contact us for a free consultation to help you try to avoid the consequences of a conviction.