Anytime you employ force as a civilian, and especially lethal force, you can count on the fact that you will be judged by a court of law for every action that you did, or did not take. Even in cases of clear-cut self-defense your actions and reasoning will be dissected at a microscopic level.
To say this is serious business is to drastically undersell the severity of the situation! While many of us are highly skilled when it comes to the application of force in defense, we are typically less so when it comes to understanding the law as it pertains to the use of that force in defense.
Your legal game had better be as strong as your ground game if you want to obtain a positive outcome in the aftermath of your defensive encounter.
The good news is that the citizens of the great state of Arizona have some of the clearest, strongest, and most strident laws around governing self-defense, and one of the best “Stand Your Ground” clauses of any state.
They are a picture of simplicity, easy to understand, and afford the civilian defender a wide latitude so long as they are actually facing down a threat against themselves or someone else.
In this article we will deep dive Arizona’s stand your ground self-defense laws.
What You Need to Know
- Arizona law allows citizens to use force, including lethal force, against a proportional threat to themselves or someone else, or to prevent or halt the commission of certain felonies.
- Interestingly, Arizona allows the use of lethal force to halt or prevent the commission of criminal trespassing.
- Arizona is an exemplar of stand-your-ground style self-defense laws, and a citizen has no duty to retreat if they are employing force lawfully and are somewhere they have a right to be, including but not limited to their home or place of business.
For those who are already fluent on the general precepts of self-defense, there are not too many surprises in store when examining Arizona’s state statutes governing such.
A citizen is within their rights to use force, including lethal force, in proportion so long as a reasonable person would believe that it is immediately necessary to stop the use of force against themselves or someone else.
Arizona also has certain provisions allowing the use of force and stopping the commission of certain felonies; see the statutes include below.
Plainly stated, if someone were to threaten you or someone else with lethal force, say by brandishing a gun, knife or some other weapon, you will be within your rights to employ lethal force of your own in stopping because that is the level of force that a reasonable person is likely to say was required to prevent the victimization of you or another.
Remember that the use of force must be proportional: if someone cocks a fist and threatens to whip your behind you are not justified to immediately pull your gun and shoot them.
The only major restrictions on the use of lethal defensive force in the state of Arizona are what you might expect.
A person who is employing lethal force must not be the instigator of an encounter, or else if they are they must make a good faith attempt to withdraw from the situation in the face of counterforce before said withdrawal is blocked by some other means; only then is their use of force in defense justified.
A person who is employing lethal force in self-defense cannot be committing any other crime prior to the employment of said force, unless under duress.
A person who is employing lethal force on defense must be in a place that they have a legal, lawful right to be, either public or private. It generally will not go well for you if you are trespassing, and subsequently have to employ force in defense.
Lethal force, obviously, cannot be used to resist a lawful arrest by a peace officer, and lastly, force cannot be used in response to verbal provocation alone.
Someone can say absolutely anything they want to you, as much as they want, and so long as their actions do not indicate or predicate a use of force against you, or someone else you just have to let it go, no matter how much it rankles you.
Arizona is a state with excellent and strongly worded statutes governing self-defense, and in particular, stand-your-ground laws. Arizona’s statutes are unambiguous, easily interpreted and pro-defender, a model for other states throughout the nation.
So long as you are not behaving criminally prior to your legitimate need to use force, you should be in good shape.
Relevant Arizona Use of Force Statutes
13-404. Justification; self-defense
A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.
B. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified:
1. In response to verbal provocation alone; or
2. To resist an arrest that the person knows or should know is being made by a peace officer or by a person acting in a peace officer’s presence and at his direction, whether the arrest is lawful or unlawful, unless the physical force used by the peace officer exceeds that allowed by law; or
3. If the person provoked the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:
(a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and
(b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person.
13-405. Justification; use of deadly physical force
A. A person is justified in threatening or using deadly physical force against another:
1. If such person would be justified in threatening or using physical force against the other under section 13-404, and
2. When and to the degree a reasonable person would believe that deadly physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force.
B. A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act.
13-406. Justification; defense of a third person
A person is justified in threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force against another to protect a third person if, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, such person would be justified under section 13-404 or 13-405 in threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force to protect himself against the unlawful physical force or deadly physical force a reasonable person would believe is threatening the third person he seeks to protect.
13-407. Justification; use of physical force in defense of premises
A. A person or his agent in lawful possession or control of premises is justified in threatening to use deadly physical force or in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent that a reasonable person would believe it immediately necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by the other person in or upon the premises.
B. A person may use deadly physical force under subsection A only in the defense of himself or third persons as described in sections 13-405 and 13-406.
C. In this section, ” premises” means any real property and any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not.
13-411. Justification; use of force in crime prevention; applicability
A. A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other’s commission of arson of an occupied structure under section 13-1704, burglary in the second or first degree under section 13-1507 or 13-1508, kidnapping under section 13-1304, manslaughter under section 13-1103, second or first degree murder under section 13-1104 or 13-1105, sexual conduct with a minor under section 13-1405, sexual assault under section 13-1406, child molestation under section 13-1410, armed robbery under section 13-1904 or aggravated assault under section 13-1204, subsection A, paragraphs 1 and 2.
B. There is no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force justified by subsection A of this section.
C. A person is presumed to be acting reasonably for the purposes of this section if the person is acting to prevent what the person reasonably believes is the imminent or actual commission of any of the offenses listed in subsection A of this section.
D. This section includes the use or threatened use of physical force or deadly physical force in a person’s home, residence, place of business, land the person owns or leases, conveyance of any kind, or any other place in this state where a person has a right to be.
A. Conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justified if a reasonable person would believe that he was compelled to engage in the proscribed conduct by the threat or use of immediate physical force against his person or the person of another which resulted or could result in serious physical injury which a reasonable person in the situation would not have resisted.
B. The defense provided by subsection A is unavailable if the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly placed himself in a situation in which it was probable that he would be subjected to duress.
C. The defense provided by subsection A is unavailable for offenses involving homicide or serious physical injury.