Standing Your Ground In Georgia: Your Legal Right To Self Defense
You Are Only Allowed To Use Force That Is Reasonable To The Imminent Threat You Face
Standing your ground in Georgia is critical if you wake up in the middle of the night to a loud crash; and you find having to defend yourself.
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Everything happens so fast, and in the heat of the moment, you use your firearm in self-defense.
After the adrenalin wears off, you now have another set of fears creep over you.
Are you about to go to jail and lose everything in a court room after almost losing your life for the act of defending yourself and your family?
Unlike many other States, Georgia has fairly straight forward laws in regards to your legal rights to self-defense.
Known collectively as “stand your ground” laws, these laws protect you from criminal prosecution if you have to use force, even lethal force, to protect yourself, your home, your property, or even other people in the event that they face serious and imminent threat.HinesLaw.org
The reason why they are called stand your ground laws is because, according to Georgia Code §16-3-23.1, someone defending themselves has “no duty” to retreat, or in other words can stand their ground and can use lethal force if necessary.
Necessary is the key word, because you are only allowed to use force that is reasonable to the imminent threat that you face.
§16-3-23 states that the person using lethal force must either believe that their assailant is attempting to forcibly commit a felony, threatens your life or the life of others with lethal force, or has entered your habitation in a violent or tumultuous manner.
It is important to note that this also covers the threat of lethal force by you, and for the gun owners this means brandishing or pointing a firearm at someone intentionally without justifiable cause is a misdemeanor that can lead to jail time.
What Is Considered Your Habitation?
In Georgia, your habitation includes where you live, your vehicle, and your place of business, or where you work.
These fall under castle doctrine, which isn’t a set of laws specifically, but a legal framework or philosophy that pulls from older common law ideas about being able to defend your land and property as well as your family, and those on your land from external threats.
The general idea is that you should be able to defend yourself if someone reasonably threatens your property through the threat of force or if force itself if needed.
The question then becomes what is a reasonable threat?
Is it when someone kill you or some else?
Is it when someone verbally says that they are going to kill you or someone else?
Do you have to wait until violent action itself is about to be presented?
This the tricky part because under Georgia law it depends on the situation and every situation is going to be different.
The key wording here is “reasonable.”
You have to consider if your use of force is reasonable to the situation in front of you.
From the perspective of a court room, if someone has broken into your home and threatens to kill you, it is more reasonable to use deadly force to defend yourself than itf someone casually makes a similar remark at a party or social gathering without any actions that go along with the verbal threat.
You have a right to defend yourself, those you love, your property, and your livelihood, but you must be sure that the threat you face is severe and warrants lethal force.
That said, one of the first steps you should take right after you successfully defend yourself or escape your situation, after you call 911 and safely secure your firearm if one has been used, is to contact an attorney.
The police are going to ask questions about what happened and you will need someone to defend your rights to ensure that you are legally safe after your have ensured your own physical safety.
Image by Brett Hondow
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