Crimes that involve using physical force or violence against someone can have serious consequences. Luckily, like most states, Oklahoma makes significant allowances for the use of force when you’re acting in self-defense. But self-defense laws vary by state, and they can often be pretty confusing.
So what exactly counts as self-defense in Oklahoma? And when are you allowed to use force in self-defense? Here’s everything you need to know about self-defense from Oklahoma City defense attorney Jacqui Ford.
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.
According to Oklahoma law, self-defense occurs when someone who is currently being physically harmed or is threatened with immediate physical harm uses physical force that will stop or avoid the harm.
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 considered 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 necessary 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 explained below.)
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.
In Oklahoma, though 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.
Contact Jacqui Ford Law Today
If you were the victim of a violent attack and defended yourself, you deserve an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to help ensure the truth is told about what happened to you. At Jacqui Ford Law, our attorneys have years of experience helping Oklahomans through these types of difficult cases. Contact us today to get started on your case.