Stand Your Ground Law: Oregon

Oregon is a curious case of eccentric or odd self-defense laws. On the one hand, the state has no explicitly stated, clarified or otherwise codified by case law provision that is commonly termed the stand-your-ground law.

Oregon seal

On the other hand, Oregon is possessed of generally sturdy and reliable self-defense laws that are clearly stated.

Unfortunately, Oregon is definitely one of those states where the interpretation of the law, according to a jury, is largely going to change depending on where you are in the state.

Leftist strongholds along the coast will probably not look favorably upon your decision to use force and self-defense, whereas considerably more conservative regions to the east, farther inland, will.

Read, heed and keep all this in mind if you are a resident of, or visitor to Oregon!

What You Need to Know

  • Oregon does not have any state statute named or mentioning stand your ground concepts. Such concepts are also not codified or clarified by any existing case law.
  • However, generally, citizens may defend themselves with a reasonable use of force anywhere they have a legal, lawful right to be and the law makes no mention of any obligation to retreat.
  • Generally speaking, a person may use deadly force and self-defense so long as they believe it is reasonably necessary to protect themselves or someone else from the use or imminent use of similar force or to stop the commission or imminent commission of a burglary in a dwelling.

General Provisions

In Oregon, a person has a right to defend themselves or any other person from the unlawful use of force against themselves so long as they use a proportional amount of force in self-defense.

For instance, you could not use lethal force against someone who merely shoved you in a social confrontation. Lethal force may be used in defense against lethal threats or the threat of great bodily injury, the commission of a forcible felony or, most notably, the commission of a burglary in a dwelling.

You read the last part correctly: Oregon law explicitly allows the use of lethal force against someone who is stealing or attempting to steal from someone’s dwelling!

It is also worth emphasizing that nowhere in Oregon’s state statutes is there a mention of anything specifically called a stand-your-ground law and no mention of standing your ground as an act, nor any clarification through case law interpretation that standing your ground is understood as a viable concept.

In essence, Oregon is not in any way a stand your ground state according to the standards of most interpreters.

However, there’s also no mention anywhere in the statutes of a duty or obligation to retreat when confronted with the need of self-defense.

There is, however, a requirement in law that the defender act reasonably. This is what is usually known as the reasonable person mandate. Just what is acting reasonably?

This is where things get ugly: as it turns out, what is “reasonable” is determined by a jury, and the kind of jury you get is a role of the dice in the best of times but you can depend on getting a jury that won’t think using force and self-defense is reasonable if you are in any leftist stronghold.

Restrictions

No additional special restrictions.

Assessment

It is hard to truly get a baseline on Oregon’s self-defense statutes. One interpretation is that the state is functionally (if not specifically) a stand-your-ground state because there is absolutely no obligation to retreat codified anywhere in the statutes.

On the other hand, the reasonable person mandate means that your actions undertaken in a millisecond reaction to a threat will be judged leisurely by a jury that might find those actions detestable and unreasonable in the end.

The best advice we can give you is to always, always make an attempt to extricate yourself from a situation in Oregon unless you are in a deeply conservative area.

Relevant Oregon Use of Force Statutes

161.015 – General definitions.

As used in chapter 743, Oregon Laws 1971, and ORS 166.635, unless the context requires otherwise:

(1) “Dangerous weapon” means any weapon, device, instrument, material or substance which under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.

(2) “Deadly weapon” means any instrument, article or substance specifically designed for and presently capable of causing death or serious physical injury.

(3) “Deadly physical force” means physical force that under the circumstances in which it is used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.

(…)

(5) “Person” means a human being and, where appropriate, a public or private corporation, an unincorporated association, a partnership, a government or a governmental instrumentality.

(6) “Physical force” includes, but is not limited to, the use of an electrical stun gun, tear gas or mace.

(7) “Physical injury” means impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

(8) “Serious physical injury” means physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

(9) “Possess” means to have physical possession or otherwise to exercise dominion or control over property.

(10) “Public place” means a place to which the general public has access and includes, but is not limited to, hallways, lobbies and other parts of apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence, and highways, streets, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and premises used in connection with public passenger transportation.

161.190 – Justification as a defense.

In any prosecution for an offense, justification, as defined in ORS 161.195 to 161.275, is a defense.

Section 161.195 – “Justification” described.

(1) Unless inconsistent with other provisions of chapter 743, Oregon Laws 1971, defining justifiable use of physical force, or with some other provision of law, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal when it is required or authorized by law or by a judicial decree or is performed by a public servant in the reasonable exercise of official powers, duties or functions.

(2) As used in subsection (1) of this section, “laws and judicial decrees” include but are not limited to:

(a) Laws defining duties and functions of public servants;

(b) Laws defining duties of private citizens to assist public servants in the performance of certain of their functions;

(c) Laws governing the execution of legal process;

(d) Laws governing the military services and conduct of war; and

(e) Judgments and orders of courts.

161.205 – Use of physical force generally.

The use of physical force upon another person that would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal under any of the following circumstances:

(1)(a) A parent, guardian or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person may use reasonable physical force upon such minor or incompetent person when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor or incompetent person.

(b) Personnel of a public education program, as that term is defined in ORS 339.285, may use reasonable physical force upon a student when and to the extent the application of force is consistent with ORS 339.285 to 339.303.

(2) Subject to ORS 421.107, an authorized official of a jail, prison or correctional facility may use physical force when and to the extent that the official reasonably believes it necessary to maintain order and discipline or as is authorized by law.

(3) A person responsible for the maintenance of order in a common carrier of passengers, or a person acting under the direction of the person, may use physical force when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to maintain order, but the person may use deadly physical force only when the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent death or serious physical injury.

(4) A person acting under a reasonable belief that another person is about to commit suicide or to inflict serious physical self-injury may use physical force upon that person to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to thwart the result.

(5) A person may use physical force upon another person in self-defense or in defending a third person, in defending property, in making an arrest or in preventing an escape, as hereafter prescribed in chapter 743, Oregon Laws 1971.

161.209 – Use of physical force in defense of a person.

Except as provided in ORS 161.215 and 161.219, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.

161.215 – Limitations on use of physical force in defense of a person.

Notwithstanding ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using physical force upon another person if:

(1) With intent to cause physical injury or death to another person, the person provokes the use of unlawful physical force by that person; or

(2) The person is the initial aggressor, except that the use of physical force upon another person under such circumstances is justifiable if the person withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person the intent to do so, but the latter nevertheless continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful physical force; or

(3) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law.

161.219 – Limitations on use of deadly physical force in defense of a person.

Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or

(2) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling; or

(3) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person.

161.225 – Use of physical force in defense of premises.

(1) A person in lawful possession or control of premises is justified in using physical force upon another person when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by the other person in or upon the premises.

(2) A person may use deadly physical force under the circumstances set forth in subsection (1) of this section only:

(a) In defense of a person as provided in ORS 161.219; or

(b) When the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent the commission of arson or a felony by force and violence by the trespasser.

(3) As used in subsection (1) and subsection (2)(a) of this section, “premises” includes any building as defined in ORS 164.205 and any real property. As used in subsection (2)(b) of this section, “premises” includes any building.

161.229 – Use of physical force in defense of property.

A person is justified in using physical force, other than deadly physical force, upon another person when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission by the other person of theft or criminal mischief of property.

161.245 – “Reasonable belief” described; status of unlawful arrest.

(1) For the purposes of ORS 161.235 and 161.239, a reasonable belief that a person has committed an offense means a reasonable belief in facts or circumstances which if true would in law constitute an offense. If the believed facts or circumstances would not in law constitute an offense, an erroneous though not unreasonable belief that the law is otherwise does not render justifiable the use of force to make an arrest or to prevent an escape from custody.

(2) A peace officer who is making an arrest is justified in using the physical force prescribed in ORS 161.235 and 161.239 unless the arrest is unlawful and is known by the officer to be unlawful.

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