Can I claim self-defense?

In Georgia, pursuant to O.C.G.A § 16-3-21, a person is justified in using force to defend themselves or others when a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to defend themselves or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. This means that a person in Georgia may be justified in an action that would otherwise be a crime if they can make out a case to the court that they were defending themselves or another person.

If you believe that you were justified in using force and find yourself charged with a serious felony like aggravated assault, manslaughter, or murder, your attorney will petition the court for an immunity hearing, asking the court to find you immune from prosecution. At this hearing the defendant carried the burden to show the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that they were justified in their actions because they reasonably believed that they were at risk of receiving a serious or life threatening injury if they did not act.

In order to make this showing to the court the defendant mut show several things:

  • The defendant was not the initial aggressor. If you were the initial aggressor in an argument, meaning that you started a fight or an altercation, you are not permitted to claim self-defense.
  • The defendant was not engaged in mutual combat with the victim. If you and the victim agreed (by words or actions) to engage in a fight, you are not permitted to claim self-defense. However, if you remove yourself from the fight, and communicate this to the other person, and then the other person comes after you, you may now be entitled to claim self-defense.
  • The force used by the defendant was not unreasonable. The amount of force used to defend yourself must be reasonable based upon the amount of force used against you. For example, if someone says “I’m going to slap you” it is not reasonable to shoot them.

If you can show the judge that you were in fact justified in defending yourself, the case will be dropped and you will be immune from prosecution. It is very important that you have a lawyer representing you who can help you make out your case to the court. At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, we have handled immunity motions like this is Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, Newton, Forsyth, and many other counties. Call us today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.