Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

What is the Law Behind the Self Defense in Georgia?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Aug 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

Most people are confused about how self defense works legally in a court of law. This is mostly because the media, movies, tv shows, and books perpetuate inaccurate information. However, as a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I would like to set the record straight as to what constitutes self defense in Georgia, and how this defense is actually used in defense of a criminal accusation.

Self Defense in Georgia

The Georgia Code defines self defense in O.C.G.A. §16-3-21 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.

There are two elements that must be present according to the statute above in order for self defense to be utilized. 

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

If these elements are met, and the accused person decides to utilize this defense, then he or she must establish that their reasonable belief that the use of force or deadly force was immediately necessary. This can be shown successfully using two different methods. 

First, relevant evidence that the accused person has previously been a victim of family violence or abuse committed by the deceased. Or, second, relevant expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the accused person at the time of the crime. This can include relevant facts and circumstances.

Practice Note

As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I would like to point out that there are specific instances in which a person is not justified in using force in an act of self defense. These situations include:

  • 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
  • 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. 

As you can see, the defense of self-defense in Georgia is actually quite complicated and overwhelming and should never be tried in an attempt to defend yourself in a court of law. Hiring an attorney who specializes in Georgia Criminal Defenses is the only way to give yourself the best chance at a successful outcome. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with committing a crime in Georgia, contact our offices today. We have a plethora of experience with criminal law in the state of Georgia, and we are here to help every step of the way.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today for Immediate Help

The time is now to start preparing your defense! Many times people lose the opportunity to put on their best defense because they wait. The importance of hiring a lawyer from the very beginning cannot be overstated! Waiting allows for witnesses to leave the area, evidence to be lost, and memories to fade. All of these have a direct effect on the successful on your case. The time to begin your case and start prepping your defense is now! Contact us today to put on your best Georgia criminal defense!