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Can I build a case for self-defense?

On Behalf of | Dec 1, 2021 | Murder/Homicide

If you are facing murder or homicide charges here in Arkansas, it is a serious situation. You likely are running the outcome of various scenarios and not liking the results. You wonder if your defense strategy should include claims of self-defense.

That’s a reasonable question to ask. But the answer can depend on many factors and the way they can be interpreted in your circumstances. Let’s explore the law further.

Was deadly physical force necessary?

Under Arkansas Code Title 5. Criminal Offenses § 5-2-607, Use of deadly physical force in defense of a person, the defendant claiming self-defense has to meet certain standards of Arkansas law. To paraphrase the law, if:

  • You were reasonably sure that the individual was either about to or already engaged in a felony using either violence or force
  • The person was employing or unleashing “unlawful deadly physical force”
  • Otherwise about to or already risking their victim’s life or just about to escalate the victimization of a continuing domestic abuse pattern

As you may glean, the law is open to different interpretations regarding the other party’s intent and foreseeable actions. It may indeed be possible to present a self-defense strategy to the court.

The exception to the rule

As with other areas of criminal law, there is an exception to the self-defense law. Lethal physical force cannot be deployed if the person could retreat and prevent a need of unleashing that deadly physical force. 

Even here, however, are caveats. No one is required to retreat unless:

  • They are certain that retreating is completely safe
  • They are in their home or “on the curtilage surrounding” their home
  • They did not initiate the aggression
  • They are a member of law enforcement or are acting upon the directive of a law enforcement officer
  • The other person surrendered the property to its rightful owner

The cited legal definition and its exceptions offer more protection to Arkansans than residents of many other states. However, no murder or homicide case is ever a slam-dunk. Make sure you review all your legal options.