Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

When Can You Utilize Self Defense in a Criminal Case in Georgia?

Posted by Richard Lawson | May 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

As a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer, I speak with people who have been accused or arrested for crimes in Georgia on a daily basis. The reality is that more often than not - people are wrongfully accused or incorrectly charged. In these cases, there are Georgia Criminal Defenses that can apply.

Our role is to ascertain the facts of your case and determine which defense(s) apply. Our firm has over 50 years of combined experience, and we will put that to work for you or a loved one if there has been an arrest.

In today's post I will focus on the defense of: Self Defense in Georgia. Many people improperly assume that self defense is easy to apply, and that they can represent themselves in their own case. This is so far from the truth. A criminal defense should never be attempted if you are not a criminal defense lawyer. We specialize in these laws and are here to help you.

Self Defense in Georgia

Self defense is one of the most popularly referred to criminal defenses. We see it on TV, in movies, etc. But the law behind self defense is actually much more complicated than one would originally assume.

Self defense is defined by the Georgia Code 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.

This means that there must be two elements present before self defense is justified by law.

  1. The danger must be imminent,
  2. And there must be a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to self or a third person.

If these two elements are met, then self defense could provide a total defense to crimes such as assault in Georgia or battery in Georgia.

However, if the charged crime is voluntary manslaughter in Georgia or murder in Georgia, and the accused argues self defense or defense of others 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 only be demonstrated by: relevant evidence that the accused had been the victim of acts of family violence or child abuse committed by the deceased; or elevant expert testimony regarding the condition of the mind of the accused at the time of the crime; including relevant facts and circumstances relating to the family violence of child abuse that is the basis of the expert's opinion.

Furthermore, there are three situations in which a person is not justified in using force:

  • 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. 

Practice Note

As you can see from the law behind self defense - this is not as easily applied as pop culture would have one believe. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a violent crime, contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today. We can help determine which defenses apply to your case.

And, again, never attempt to defend your own criminal case. The purpose of these posts are purely educational - not an attempt to teach you how to defend yourself. Call us now.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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