Self Defense in Georgia: Are You Immune from Criminal Prosecution?

The police put you handcuffs for shooting another person. You are on your way to the county jail. You know you acted in self-defense and want a jury trial. But before your jury trial, you are entitled to a hearing to see if you are immune from criminal prosecution. 

O.C.G.A. 16-3-24.2 authorizes a pre-trial hearing to decide if a defendant is immune from criminal prosecution. You must first file an immunity motion requesting a hearing. To avoid trial, a defendant has the burden of proof that he is entitled to immunity. The standard of proof is by a preponderance of evidence.

If the trial judge finds that you have met the burden of proof regarding self-defense, then your indictment is dismissed, and the State cannot continue to prosecute you.

If the defendant cannot meet its burden regarding self-defense at an immunity hearing, he can still argue self-defense at trial. You get two shots at winning your case. First, argue self-defense at an immunity hearing. If you lose, argue self-defense to a jury at trial.

At the immunity hearing, the defendant would call witnesses, present evidence and persuade the judge that he was acting in self-defense. The judge must employ O.C.G.A. 16-3-21(a) to make the finding. This section requires the judge to make a finding of justification based on evidence of the defendant’s reasonable belief that the use of deadly force against the other person was necessary to prevent the defendant from dying or being seriously injured.

If the judge makes such a finding, then the case is over.

If you believe you are being charged with a crime but that you had to act in self-defense to avoid death or serious injury, then call our office and lets discuss whether an immunity motion is proper in your case.

We can meet you at any time at either our Atlanta or Marietta office. Please call us at 404-581-0999 or email me at