Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in Idaho

Idaho does not pull any punches when it comes to their iteration of stand-your-ground laws. Idaho broadly justifies lethal force when it is used to prevent the threat of death or great bodily injury against any person or to stop any forcible felony.

Laudable even among advocate self-defense states is that Idaho statutes take great pains to explain and instruct potential judges and juries under what auspices such actions might be appraised.

flag of Idaho

Specifically, the benefit of hindsight is not allowed, and judging a defender’s actions when lethal force is used and it is codified in the law the only the appearance of a lethal threat is required for a defender to respond accordingly, not the genuine presence of such a threat.

In any case, there is no duty to retreat so long as a person has a right to be where they are.

If that sounds a little confusing, don’t worry; we will explain everything in the rest of this article, and you’ll be pleased to know that it is actually a very good thing for civilians who might have to protect themselves and their loved ones in extremis.

You will also find the precise text of the current state statutes on the subject at the end of this article for your review, and as always we suggest you get very comfortable with them.

What You Need to Know

  • Idaho justifies an appropriate level of force, including lethal force, if it is necessary to prevent a threat of like kind, meaning any threat of death or great bodily injury.
  • Idaho also allows for lethal force to be employed if it is necessary to halt or prevent any commission of a forcible felony.
  • Idaho codifies that any person acting justly has no right to retreat from any place they have a right to be if the use of force is necessary to prevent harm.
  • Idaho features a statute declaring the legislature’s intent to incorporate both Castle Doctrine and stand-your-ground laws along with jury instructions into the relevant chapters.

General Provisions

Idaho is a strong proponent of self defense for civilians, and even a cursory reading of the law will reveal this to anyone.

Idaho makes way for the use of lethal force and self-defense by providing a justification for homicide, stating that homicide is justifiable when committed by anyone so long as it is done in order to resist any attempt to stop the murder of any person, the infliction of great bodily harm on any person, or the commission of any felony.

They further state that when it is done in defense of habitation, a place of business or an occupied vehicle against a person violently or tumultuously attempts to enter any of those places of occupation.

Of particular interest, Idaho has a statute in Section 19 declaring the intent of the legislature to integrate castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws throughout, along with providing instruction to juries in certain parts of the chapter.

While many states have incorporated both castle doctrine and stand-your-ground laws into their statutes, only a handful of states take the time too plainly and boldly declare this intent in those same law books. How about a round of applause for Idaho?

Elsewhere in the section, the statutes state that resistance by any threatened party is permissible so long as the person about to be injured provides that resistance to prevent an offense against themselves or their family and if they further may use any such degree and extent of force judge reasonably necessary to prevent said injury.

“Reasonable” is further qualified as being determined from the viewpoint of a reasonable person placed in that same set of circumstances, and only seeing and knowing what the subject saw and knew without any such benefit of hindsight.

If that sounds laborious and circuitous, consider that one of the many flaws of our legal system is that the people doing the judging of the defendant during a trial concerning self-defense get to consider and appraise their actions the defendant took at their leisure, whereas the defendant had to assess, make a decision and then act in an instant.

This is certainly a worthwhile reminder for judges and juries alike to consider the events in their totality.

Lastly, the Idaho laws codify that a person acting in defense of themselves or someone else does not need to wait until they ascertain whether or not any apparent danger is in fact real.

Any such person confronted with danger has the right, under law, to act upon appearances such as would influence the action of any reasonable person.

Consider what you would do if confronted with a mugger who had a shiny knife leveled at your belly, or appeared to be pointing a gun at you through his coat pocket:

In Idaho, you could (rightly) act without waiting to ascertain whether or not the knife was actually real or even sharp, or before learning whether there was actually a gun inside his pocket or he was bluffing.

Restrictions

Idaho places no meaningful restrictions on the use of lethal force in self-defense beyond the standard of reasonable care, and that a person who provokes an encounter may not claim self-defense unless they have made a good-faith effort to extricate himself from the situation before they are faced with a legitimate threat to their life or limb.

Assessment

Idaho is one of the leading stand-your-ground states, possessed of multiple statutes affirming citizens’ rights to use lethal force in defense of a similar threat, and further instructing juries as to what they may consider under the circumstances should such a matter make it to court.

Defenders in Idaho have no obligation to retreat so long as they are not committing a crime, and are otherwise in any place they legally, lawfully have a right to be.

Relevant Idaho Use of force Statutes

18-4009. JUSTIFIABLE HOMICIDE BY ANY PERSON.

(1) Homicide is justifiable when committed by any person in any of the following cases:

(a) When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person;

(b) When committed in defense of habitation, a place of business or employment, occupied vehicle, property or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein;

(c) When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mortal combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed; or

(d) When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace.

(2) For purposes of subsection (1)(b) of this section, a person who unlawfully and by force or by stealth enters or attempts to enter a habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit a felony.

(3) For purposes of this section:

(a) “Habitation” means any building, inhabitable structure or conveyance of any kind, whether the building, inhabitable structure or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night, and includes a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest, and includes the curtilage of any such dwelling.

(b) “Place of business or employment” means a commercial enterprise or establishment owned by a person as all or part of the person’s livelihood or is under the owner’s control or under control of an employee or agent of the owner with responsibility for protecting persons and property and shall include the interior and exterior premises of the place of business or employment.

(c) “Vehicle” means any motorized vehicle that is self-propelled and designed for use on public highways to transport people or property.

19-201. LAWFUL RESISTANCE.

Lawful resistance to the commission of a public offense may be made:

1. By the party about to be injured.

2. By other parties.

19-201A. LEGISLATIVE INTENT — CASTLE DOCTRINE AND STAND YOUR GROUND.

It is the intent of the legislature to incorporate provisions of the castle doctrine and stand your ground provided in Idaho case law and jury instructions into certain sections of this chapter and in section 18-4009, Idaho Code.

19-202. RESISTANCE BY THREATENED PARTY.

(1) Resistance sufficient to prevent the offense may be made by the person about to be injured:

(a) To prevent an offense against his person, or his family, or some member thereof; or

(b) To prevent an illegal attempt by force to take or injure property in his lawful possession.

(2) A person acting pursuant to this section may use such degree and extent of force as would appear to be reasonably necessary to prevent the threatened injury. Reasonableness is to be judged from the viewpoint of a reasonable person placed in the same position and seeing and knowing what the person then saw and knew without the benefit of hindsight.

19-202A. DEFENSE OF SELF, OTHERS AND CERTAIN PLACES.

(1) No person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting himself or his family by reasonable means necessary, or when coming to the aid of another whom he reasonably believes to be in imminent danger of or the victim of aggravated assault, robbery, rape, murder or other heinous crime.

(2) The defense of self or of another does not require a person to wait until he or she ascertains whether the danger is apparent or real. A person confronted with such danger has a clear right to act upon appearances such as would influence the action of a reasonable person.

(3) In the exercise of the right of self-defense or defense of another, a person need not retreat from any place that person has a right to be. A person may stand his ground and defend himself or another person by the use of all force and means which would appear to be necessary to a reasonable person in a similar situation and with similar knowledge without the benefit of hindsight. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to a person incarcerated in jail or prison facilities when interacting with jail or prison staff who are acting in their official capacities.

(4) In any prosecution for the unlawful use of force, including deadly force, or the attempted or threatened use of force contrary to title 18, Idaho Code, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force, attempted use of force or threat to use force was not justifiable.

(5) A person using force or deadly force in defense of a habitation, place of business or employment or occupied vehicle as defined in section 18-4009(3), Idaho Code, is presumed to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the force is used against a person whose entry or attempted entry therein is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.

19-203. RESISTANCE BY OTHER PARTIES.

Any other person, in aid or defense of the person about to be injured, may make resistance sufficient to prevent the offense.

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