Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Analysis of Self Defense in Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Apr 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

I take time out of my news-based posts to highlight changes in the law or certain Georgia Criminal Defenses because I believe that it is important for people to understand the law. It's important because no one is immune from an arrest or from the accidental commission of a crime. It can happen to the best of people, and everyone should know what they can and cannot do under the law here in Georgia.

Today I would like to focus on the defense of Self Defense in Georgia. Sometimes people feel so threatened by another or after seeing someone else get threatened, the reaction is to use force to defend themselves. Sometimes this can mean deadly force. Let's jump into the law behind this defense.

Self Defense in Georgia

According to Georgia Law, self-defense is defined as:

A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force; however, a person is justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent commission of a forcible felony. (O.C.G.A. §16-3-21).

However, if deadly force is utilized, two elements must be present.

  1. The danger to either himself or a third person must be imminent; and
  2. He must reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to self or a third person.

Self Defense is an affirmative defense. As a result a person must admit that he or she committed the “act” that would be a violation of the law. However, he or she had a right to commit that act because they were justified.

If the deadly force results in homicide, and the accused person is facing a crime of voluntary manslaughter or murder, then the accused person must establish that his or her reasonable belief was immediately necessary. This can be shown by evidence or expert testimony.

The jury will also have to determine whether the accused person's state of mind when utilizing deadly force was that of a reasonable person, and if a reasonable person would have deemed it necessary to use deadly force. No set standard exists here.

Self-defense kicks in if it is proven that the accused person was justified in either defending himself or others. Then, he or she will be acquitted of the crime.

When is someone not justified in using force to defend himself?

  • If he initially provokes the use of force against himself with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
  • If he is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony; or
  • If he was the aggressor or was engaged in combat by agreement unless he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so and the other, notwithstanding, continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force. 

I always end these posts explaining that the legal system is complicated and overwhelming. Most likely, you will not be able to prove that your use of force was justified. This is where it is of the utmost importance to hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer if you think this defense applies to your case. We will be there to listen and understand your side of the story, and we are willing to fight for your freedom. Contact us today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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