Self-defense laws are essential components of any legal system, aiming to strike a balance between an individual’s right to protect themselves and society’s interest in maintaining order and safety. Missouri’s Self-Defense Law is designed to provide individuals with the means to protect themselves and their property while maintaining strict boundaries to prevent the misuse of force. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime after acting in self-defense, it is imperative to speak with an experienced St. Louis Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately to discuss your options.
Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” Law
Missouri is one of several states in the United States that has adopted a “Stand Your Ground” law. This law allows individuals to use force, including deadly force, to defend themselves without a legal obligation to retreat from the situation first, as long as they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent imminent harm and they are in their dwelling, vehicle, or in a location they have a right to be. The “Stand Your Ground” provision eliminates the duty to retreat, effectively granting individuals more freedom in assessing the threat to their safety.
The Castle Doctrine
Missouri also incorporates the Castle Doctrine, which allows homeowners and occupants to use deadly force against intruders who unlawfully enter their residence or occupied vehicle. This doctrine essentially extends the self-defense rights to protect one’s home and personal space. However, it is crucial to note that the use of force must still be reasonable and justifiable under the circumstances.
The Duty to Retreat
While Missouri law generally follows a “Stand Your Ground” philosophy, it does maintain a duty to retreat in certain situations. This duty to retreat applies when a person is outside their home, vehicle, or place they have a right to be and could safely avoid the threat by retreating or withdrawing from the situation. Failing to do so may undermine a claim of self-defense in a court of law. For example, if you are tresspassing on the private property of another, you must retreat before resorting to the use of physical force to defend yourself. It is essential for individuals to assess the circumstances carefully and act in accordance with this requirement when applicable.
Missouri law allows the use of deadly force in self-defense only when the individual reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death, serious physical injury, or a forcible felony. This standard ensures that the use of deadly force is a last resort, and individuals must demonstrate that they had no other reasonable options to protect themselves or others. Overstepping these boundaries can result in criminal charges.
Missouri’s self-defense law also provides that an initial agressor is not justified in using physical force to defend himself from the counter attack that he provoked. However, a person who is the initial agressor in an encounter can regain the privilege of self-defense if he withdraws from the encounter and clearly indicates to the other person his desire to end the encounter. Then if the other person persists in continuing the conflict by threatening to use or by using lawfule force, the first person is no longer the initial aggressor and he can lawfully use force to defend himself.
Burden of Proof
In Missouri, the defendant has the burden of injecting the issue of self-defense, meaning the defendant has to present some evidence of self-defense or self-defense has to be readily apparent in the State’s evidence. Once the Judge has determined that self-defense is an issue in the case, the judge is required to instruct the jury on self-defense. The state then has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in lawful self-defense.
The Felony Murder Exception
Missouri Law does not permit self-defense when you have been charged with felony murder. A person is guilty of felony murder when he or she commits a felony and another person dies a result of the commision of that felony.
What to do if you have been charged
It is imperative for Missourians to understand the intricacies of the state’s self-defense laws and act judiciously when facing potential threats. Misuse of force or a misinterpretation of the law can have serious legal consequences. Therefore, it is essential to seek legal counsel from an experienced St. Louis Criminal Lawyer and exercise restraint while relying on self-defense as a legal justification. If you or a loved one has been charged after resorting to self defense, please do not hesitate to call us at 314-526-3779 for a free consultation.