Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in Montana

Since a recent overhaul of the state’s self-defense laws occurred, Montana now proudly boasts one of the most pro-citizen set of stand-your-ground laws on the books anywhere in the nation.

Montana allows citizens to meet the unlawful use of force against themselves or another with force of their own with no attendant obligation to retreat or to call for help, so long as the force they are employing is proportional to the threat or is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Flag of Montana

Also noteworthy is that Montana is significantly friendlier than other states when it comes to the warning or brandishing of a firearm or other weapon in order to deter the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony or the use of unlawful force.

All the relevant laws are contained in more than a dozen statutes in the sections of importance but we have taken the time to distill this information into an easy-to-use guide for you. You can find the exact text of the relevant statutes at the end of the article.

What You Need to Know

  • Residents of Montana may meet the unlawful use of force with force of their own, including lethal force, so long as it is proportional to the threat.
  • Lethal force may also be used to prevent the commission of a forcible felony, such as unlawful entry into a dwelling, rape, kidnapping, etc.
  • Notably lethal force may not be used to prevent escape. Unless you are law enforcement, make no attempt to detain someone unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the use of unlawful force.
  • If a weapon is openly carried Montana allows the carrier of said weapon to warn or display it if they believe it is reasonably necessary to prevent a forcible felony or the use of unlawful force from occurring.

General Provisions

Gratefully, Montana is possessed of excellent common-sense laws concerning self-defense, and citizens have no duty to retreat or to summon help so long as they are using force consistent with the law as laid down in the sections below.

So long as this person is employing force legally, are doing it in defense of themselves or someone else, in defense of an occupied structure or any other place they have a lawful right to be there is no obligation to risk harm or injury in attempting retreat.

Getting into the specifics, Montana specifies that lethal force is only allowable in defense if it is being used to prevent the unlawful use of force that could result in death or great bodily injury, or to prevent a forcible felony.

Forcible felonies include but are not limited to such acts and grievous crimes as robbery, home invasion, rape, sexual assault of a minor, aggravated battery, carjacking and so forth. A complete list of forcible felonies is available in the Montana state statutes.

Concerning the defense of home and property, do take care that Montana only makes allowances for the use of force in defense of a dwelling if it is an occupied dwelling, meaning force may be used to prevent the unlawful entry into the occupied dwelling or to terminate an unlawful entry that is occurring.

The only other exemption is if force is being used to terminate some other forcible felony occurring within the structure.

Is also worthwhile as an armed citizen to investigate and understand Montana’s laws concerning display of a weapon. Montana, as you probably already knew, allows the open carry of weapons.

Unlike most States, Montana also allows for an armed defender to inform an assailant or potential assailant that they are armed or even to display the weapon in order to deter an attack if they have a reasonable belief it is about to occur.

Restrictions

Force, including lethal force, may never be used to resist arrest, in the furtherance of a crime or to protect property unless that force is proportional to the crime or other torturous interference with said property.

Make sure you read the statute on defense of other property below. Lethal force may only be used to protect property aside from an occupied dwelling if a threat of death or great bodily injury is attendant with the interference or criminal activity against said property.

Also you should not use force and especially lethal force to stop the flight or escape of an assailant unless there is a reasonable likelihood that their escape could place you or someone else at an immediate risk of death or great bodily harm. As the old saying goes you can’t shoot them just because they are running away!

Assessment

Montana is a state with strong self-defense laws including one of the best set of stand your ground laws anywhere in the nation.

Unlike other states with similar laws Montana does allow defensive display of a weapon in certain circumstances. In many places this is an option that is fraught with risk legally.

So long as you are using forced to defend yourself against a risk of death or great bodily injury, protect someone else from the same, or protect an occupied dwelling from unlawful entry or some other forcible felony being perpetrated against the occupants you will have little to worry about and in all cases you have no duty to retreat or to summon help prior to the use of such force.

Relevant Montana Use of Force Statutes

Below is a partial list of the most relevant State statutes concerning Montana’s use-of-force laws, and specifically their version of the stand-your-ground law.

45-3-101. Definitions.

(1) “Force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm” within the meaning of this chapter includes but is not limited to:

(a) the firing of a firearm in the direction of a person, even though no purpose exists to kill or inflict serious bodily harm; and

(b) the firing of a firearm at a vehicle in which a person is riding.

(2) ”Forcible felony” means any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.

45-3-102. Use of force in defense of person.

A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary for self-defense or the defense of another against the other person’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, the person is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm to the person or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

45-3-103. Use of force in defense of occupied structure.

(1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.

(2) A person justified in the use of force pursuant to subsection (1) is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted and the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault upon the person or another then in the occupied structure; or

(b) the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony in the occupied structure.

45-3-104. Use of force in defense of other property.

A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the conduct is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with either real property, other than an occupied structure, or personal property lawfully in the person’s possession or in the possession of another who is a member of the person’s immediate family or household or of a person whose property the person has a legal duty to protect. However, the person is justified in the use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm only if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

45-3-105. Use of force by aggressor.

The justification described in 45-3-102 through 45-3-104 is not available to a person who:

(1) is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of a forcible felony; or

(2) purposely or knowingly provokes the use of force against the person, unless:

(a) the force is so great that the person reasonably believes that the person is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm and that the person has exhausted every reasonable means to escape the danger other than the use of force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm to the assailant; or

(b) in good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that the person desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

45-3-106. Use of force to prevent escape.

(1) A peace officer or other person who has an arrested person in custody is justified in the use of force to prevent the escape of the arrested person from custody that the officer or other person would be justified in using if the officer or other person were arresting the person.

(2) A guard or other peace officer is justified in the use of force, including force likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, that the guard or officer reasonably believes to be necessary to prevent the escape from a correctional institution of a person whom the guard or officer reasonably believes to be lawfully detained in the institution under sentence for an offense or awaiting trial or commitment for an offense.

45-3-108. Use of force in resisting arrest.

A person is not authorized to use force to resist an arrest that the person knows is being made either by a peace officer or by a private person summoned and directed by a peace officer to make the arrest, even if the person believes that the arrest is unlawful and the arrest in fact is unlawful.

45-3-110. No duty to summon help or flee.

Except as provided in 45-3-105, a person who is lawfully in a place or location and who is threatened with bodily injury or loss of life has no duty to retreat from a threat or summon law enforcement assistance prior to using force. The provisions of this section apply to a person offering evidence of justifiable use of force under 45-3-102, 45-3-103, or 45-3-104.

45-3-111. Openly carrying weapon — display — exemption.

(1) Any person who is not otherwise prohibited from doing so by federal or state law may openly carry a weapon and may communicate to another person the fact that the person has a weapon.

(2) If a person reasonably believes that the person or another person is threatened with bodily harm, the person may warn or threaten the use of force, including deadly force, against the aggressor, including drawing or presenting a weapon.

(3) This section does not limit the authority of the board of regents or other postsecondary institutions to regulate the carrying of weapons, as defined in 45-8-361(5)(b), on their campuses.

45-3-112. Investigation of alleged offense involving claim of justifiable use of force.

When an investigation is conducted by a peace officer of an incident that appears to have or is alleged to have involved justifiable use of force, the investigation must be conducted so as to disclose all evidence, including testimony concerning the alleged offense and that might support the apparent or alleged justifiable use of force.

45-3-115. Affirmative defense.

A defense of justifiable use of force based on the provisions of this part is an affirmative defense.

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