Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Explanation of Self Defense in Georgia

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jun 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

As a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I frequently see the term "self defense" thrown around casually as if it is a defense that can be utilized no matter what. I do my best to write as often as I can on Georgia Criminal Defenses, so as to demonstrate just how complicated Georgia Criminal Law actually is and show that it requires a well-experienced legal professional to apply the law properly.

In today's post, I will do my best to explain the law behind the defense of self-defense in Georgia.

The Law on Self-Defense in Georgia

Georgia law defines self-defense in Georgia 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.

According to the statute, two elements must be present before the use of deadly force is justified:

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

Utilizing Self-Defense in Georgia

If the crime includes is Georgia manslaughter or Georgia murder, and the accused argues self defense or defense of others in Georgia as a justification for their actions, then the accused must establish that their reasonable belief that the use of force or deadly force was immediately necessary. This can be shown by relevant evidence of:

  • The accused person had been the victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased; or
  • Expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the accused at the time of the crime.

Unjustified Self-Defense

There are situations in which self-defense is not justified. These situations are as follows:

  • If the accused person 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 the accused person is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony; or
  • If the accused person is 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. 

Practice Note

As I mentioned above, the legal system in Georgia can be both complicated and overwhelming. Trying utilize self-defense or attempting to prove that your use of force was justified to defend yourself or others can be difficult. Having a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney is for your ultimate defense. We will investigate your case and listen to your side of the story.

Bottom line: we are willing to fight for you, and we will assist you every step of the way.

If you or a loved has been charged with a crime in Georgia, contact us today. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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