When Is Self-Defense Justified in Arizona?

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When Is Self-Defense Justified in Arizona?

There is no doubt that being threatened with physical harm is extremely scary. Sadly, these types of violent crimes do occur each year, including in Arizona. What many people do not realize is that Arizona law allows victims of violent crimes to defend themselves in certain situations. Let’s take a deeper dive into Arizona’s self-defense laws and how they work. 

What are Arizona self-defense laws? 

In Arizona law, there are three main self-defense laws. These laws cover when a person can threaten or use physical or deadly force against an attacker, including in defense of another person. 

ARS 13-404

This law states that a person can threaten or use physical force against an attacker, but only when another reasonable person would agree that force is needed for them to protect themselves. The self-defense actions need to be “immediately necessary” to protect the victim. Also, the self-defense actions must be proportional to the attack—the statute does not allow for unlimited physical force from the victim. 

For example, if someone pins you to the ground choking you around your throat, justified self-defense is using your fists to defend yourself. However, if that same attacker never actually touched you—instead they just verbally attacked you—using your fists would not be proportional to their attack, and would not be covered under ARS 13-404.

ARS 13-405

This law takes ARS 13-404 one step further by saying it is legal for a victim to threaten or use deadly physical force to protect themselves from someone threatening or attempting the same. Again, the law limits this exception to circumstances where another reasonable person would believe the use of deadly force to protect oneself is entirely necessary and proportional to that used by the attacker. 

For example, if in the above scenario an attacker was attempting to choke you to death, justified self-defense is using your pocket knife to defend yourself. However, if a person just yelled and slapped you, you cannot use a weapon on them. 

ARS 13-406

Under this law, it is legal for a person to threaten or use physical force or deadly force against an attacker in order to protect a third person. Once again, the amount of physical force you use has to be proportional to the force being used during the attack. Also, if it had been possible for the victim you’re defending to use self-defense, that force must be justified. 

When witnessing an attacker choking a person with their arms tied behind their back (making it impossible for them to defend themself) it is legal for you to use your fists on the attacker to help defend the person being choked.

When is self-defense not justified? 

As we mentioned above, in order for justified self-defense, the actions must be: 

  • Proportional to the actions of the threat or attack
  • Immediately necessary
  • Another reasonable person would need to agree that the self-defense actions were completely necessary for the victim to protect themselves from their attacker

There are also specific circumstances when you cannot use self-defense in Arizona:  

  • Using physical force against a verbal attack, such as yelling or curse words
  • Provoking another person to use unlawful physical force against you and then using physical force to defend yourself
  • Threatening or using physical force to resist arrest from a law enforcement officer

Understanding Self-Defense in Arizona

Arizona self-defense laws can be difficult to interpret and understand. Certain circumstances must be met in order for these laws to take effect. If a judge or jury believes those circumstances have not been met, a defendant may find themselves facing harsh charges with prison time and other penalties. 

If you are facing charges justifiable under the Arizona self-defense laws, you need certified criminal law specialist Todd Coolidge in your corner to prove your case and uphold your rights. Call our offices or send us a message today to schedule a consultation in Phoenix or Chandler. 

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash