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What’s Georgia’s stance on self-defense?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense

You want to protect yourself – and your loved ones – from threats, but what right do you actually have in this state to use violence against someone if you think that doing so is necessary?

Every state approaches this issue in different ways, so understanding your fundamental rights as a resident of Georgia is important. It could mean the difference between walking away from a scene and being charged with a violent crime for your actions.

There’s no duty to retreat – but that’s not all you need to know

In many states, people are required to retreat whenever it is reasonably feasible to do so, even in the face of extreme threats, but you’re under no obligation to do that here. Broadly speaking, you can respond with force when:

  • You reasonably believe that you are about to be subjected to “another person’s imminent use of force
  • The level of force you use is proportionate to the threat, with deadly force being reserved for specific situations where the threat to your well-being is serious
  • You were neither the aggressor in the situation nor in the process of committing (or trying to commit) a felony-level crime at the time

In practical terms, that means that you don’t have to wait until the other guy hits you to respond with force. The mere fact that they’re brandishing their fist a few inches from your face and threatening you is enough to qualify as an imminent situation where a forceful response is acceptable. However, responding to someone’s shove with a shotgun blast would likely be considered excessive. You also cannot leave a scene where you were threatened and return later to settle the score, since that would no longer be a situation where you were in imminent danger.

If you’ve been charged with a violent crime and want to raise the issue of self-defense, it’s time to invoke your right to remain silent until you can better explore your options with the assistance of counsel.