Is There Justification for Use of Physical Force in Arizona?
Some people are surprised to learn it is legal to threaten the use of physical force or use physical force in certain situations. Arizona law states if you are confronted with an unlawful use of physical force or attempting to prevent specific crimes as specified by Arizona’s laws, it is perfectly legal to threaten to use physical force of your own or do so. As explained in ARS 13-404, there is justification in using physical force when a reasonable individual would believe doing so is necessary to protect oneself against a threat that is immediate.
Arizona’s Self Defense Laws
In order for an Arizonan to lawfully assert a claim of self-defense, his or her use of physical force is required to be proportional and reasonable to the threat made against them. This threat must also be immediate in order for the state’s self-defense laws to prove applicable.
The elements necessary to justify the threat of force or the use of force are as follows: immediately necessary, proportional and reasonable. However, even if all three elements are present, the individual in question cannot use unlimited physical force. The statute authorizes the use of force to the level that a reasonable person would believe to be immediately necessary to safeguard oneself against the unlawful use of force by another person. If necessary, a jury will determine if the individual’s actions constitute reasonable actions considering the context of the altercation or threat of an altercation.
What About Using Force to Defend Others?
Arizona’s ARS 13-406 states an individual is justified in using physical force or threatening to use physical force to protect other people but only to the extent that the other individual would have been legally empowered to defend him or herself. This means the person one is defending must be justified in their use of self-defense in order for him or her to be legally defended. Furthermore, the threat of force or force used for defense must be immediately necessary, reasonable and proportional.
ARS 13-405 states deadly force is sometimes necessary and legal. However, the use of deadly force is limited to specific situations. Deadly force is only legal if there is a reasonable fear of death or a significant physical injury. As long as a reasonable individual in the position of the defendant would believe the use of deadly force was necessary and immediate for self-protection against a deadly force or one with the potential to be a deadly force, there is legal justification for reciprocating with deadly force.
In short, the legalese detailed above means if an individual in Arizona were to threaten you with a firearm, you would have legal justification for seriously injuring or killing that individual as doing so would save your life. However, if you were merely punched, it would not be reasonable to cause serious injury or kill the individual who threw the punch.
Standing Your Ground in Arizona
Though Arizona does not have a law on the books named “Stand your ground,” the state’s laws essentially permit people to stand their ground. This means there is not a duty to retreat prior to defending yourself against a threat. As long as you are not partaking in an illegal act and have a right to be in your position, you do not have to retreat if someone assaults or threatens you. However, the force you use in response must be reasonable and proportional, meaning firing a bullet at an individual who slaps you is not legal. Rather, returning that slap with a slap of your own or even a single punch in self-defense would likely be viewed as a reasonable and proportional response.