Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in Kentucky

Stand-your-ground laws are a subject of considerable interest to concerned citizens who fear they might one day need to use force, including lethal force, in defense of themselves and their families.

A stand your ground law is typically Incorporated into a state’s statutes governing the use of force in self-defense, and typically means that a victim or potential victim has no obligation to the state, no legal duty, to retreat from a threat so long as they are not engaged in some other criminal activity, and in a place that they have a right to be.

flag of Kentucky

Kentucky is one such a state that has stand your ground laws incorporated into their statutes, and they went so far as to include specific verbiage and each section covering the use of force in self-defense.

I will provide you a quick overview as well as the statutes of interest below.

What You Need to Know

  • Citizens on defense in Kentucky may use lethal force in order to halt or prevent the threat of death or great bodily harm for being inflicted on themselves or someone else.
  • Kentucky law also states that lethal force may be used to stop the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.
  • Kentucky’s stand-your-ground laws are uncommon and that they insert verbiage stating that a citizen has no obligation to retreat in any way prior to the use of deadly physical Force specifically.

General Provisions

Kentucky law provides justification for the use of force, specifically lethal force, if the defender believes that they are at risk of death or great bodily harm being inflicted upon them or someone else.

It is worth noting but the law states there is only a presumption that the defender was under peril of death or great bodily injury if the attack occurs while they’re occupying a dwelling, residents or vehicle. Important distinction.

At any rate, Kentucky State statutes concerning the use of lethal force in defense under various circumstances each include a provision stating that the defender has no obligation under the law to attempt retreat.

Restrictions

Lethal force cannot be used in defense if the person employing it in the confrontation was the initial aggressor, is using it, and someone else who is a legal resident or tenant of a dwelling, vehicle or other residential structure or the person employing lethal force is doing so to resist detainment or arrest by an authorized law enforcement officer or agent.

Assessment

Kentucky is a state with strong self-defense laws, and particularly strong wording when it comes to stand your ground provisions, the language for each being incorporated into the attendance sections covering various self-defense and use of force circumstances.

Generally, there are no circumstances under which a justified defender would be forced to retreat prior to using lethal force.

Relevant Kentucky Use of Force Statutes

503.020 Justification — A defense.

In any prosecution for an offense, justification, as defined in this chapter, is a defense.

503.050 Use of physical force in self-protection — Admissibility of evidence of prior
acts of domestic violence and abuse.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the
defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against the use or
imminent use of unlawful physical force by the other person.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable
under subsection (1) only when the defendant believes that such force is necessary
to protect himself against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual
intercourse compelled by force or threat, felony involving the use of force, or under
those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055.

(3) Any evidence presented by the defendant to establish the existence of a prior act or
acts of domestic violence and abuse as defined in KRS 403.720 by the person
against whom the defendant is charged with employing physical force shall be
admissible under this section.

(4) A person does not have a duty to retreat prior to the use of deadly physical force.

503.055 Use of defensive force regarding dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle —
Exceptions.

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or
great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is
intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of
unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered a
dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was
attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling,
residence, or occupied vehicle; and

(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an
unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had
occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) of this section does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or
is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner,
lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from
domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against
that person;

(b) The person sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in
the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of the person against
whom the defensive force is used;

(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is
using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful
activity; or

(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a peace officer, as
defined in KRS 446.010, who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling,
residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties, and the
officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or
the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person
entering or attempting to enter was a peace officer.

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any
other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right
to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or
she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm
to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a felony involving
the use of force.

(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s
dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent
to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

503.060 Improper use of physical force in self-protection.

Notwithstanding the provisions of KRS 503.050, the use of physical force by a defendant
upon another person is not justifiable when:

(1) The defendant is resisting an arrest by a peace officer, recognized to be acting under
color of official authority and using no more force than reasonably necessary to
effect the arrest, although the arrest is unlawful; or

(2) The defendant, with the intention of causing death or serious physical injury to the
other person, provokes the use of physical force by such other person; or

(3) The defendant was the initial aggressor, except that his use of physical force upon
the other person under this circumstance is justifiable when:

(a) His initial physical force was nondeadly and the force returned by the other is
such that he believes himself to be in imminent danger of death or serious
physical injury; or

(b) He withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other
person his intent to do so and the latter nevertheless continues or threatens the
use of unlawful physical force.

503.070 Protection of another.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when:

(a) The defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect a third person
against the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by the other
person; and

(b) Under the circumstances as the defendant believes them to be, the person
whom he seeks to protect would himself have been justified under KRS
503.050 and 503.060 in using such protection.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable
when:

(a) The defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect a third person
against imminent death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual
intercourse compelled by force or threat, or other felony involving the use of
force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to KRS 503.055; and

(b) Under the circumstances as they actually exist, the person whom he seeks to
protect would himself have been justified under KRS 503.050 and 503.060 in
using such protection.

(3) A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she
has a right to be.

503.080 Protection of property.

(1) The use of physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable when the
defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent:

(a) The commission of criminal trespass, robbery, burglary, or other felony
involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to
KRS 503.055, in a dwelling, building or upon real property in his possession
or in the possession of another person for whose protection he acts; or

(b) Theft, criminal mischief, or any trespassory taking of tangible, movable
property in his possession or in the possession of another person for whose
protection he acts.

(2) The use of deadly physical force by a defendant upon another person is justifiable
under subsection (1) only when the defendant believes that the person against whom
such force is used is:

(a) Attempting to dispossess him of his dwelling otherwise than under a claim of
right to its possession; or

(b) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary, robbery, or other felony
involving the use of force, or under those circumstances permitted pursuant to
KRS 503.055, of such dwelling; or

(c) Committing or attempting to commit arson of a dwelling or other building in
his possession.

(3) A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she
has a right to be.

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