West Virginia has self-defense laws that are broadly consistent with other laws found throughout the greater American South and Appalachian region. A stand-your-ground provision is not included separately, but the effect of such a provision is more or less woven throughout the relevant body of the applicable statutes.
So long as a person is attempting to defend themselves, a third party, or their home or dwelling from an intruder or attacker threatening death or great bodily injury, they will be justified in using lethal force in self-defense so long as they believe that said force is necessary to halt the commission of the attack.
At no time, in or out of the home, will a defender have an obligation to retreat so long as they act within the confines of the law on this matter.
There’s more to learn about West Virginia’s stand your ground law in the rest of this article below.
What You Need to Know
- West Virginia permits citizens to use lethal force in self-defense against any intruder or attacker attempting to kill or inflict serious bodily harm upon the occupant of a home or dwelling.
- West Virginia further permits citizens to use lethal force and self-defense outside of the home so long as they are in any place they have a lawful right to be and the defender reasonably believes that lethal force is necessary to halt the commission of an attack using deadly force against them.
- So long as the use of deadly force in self-defense is otherwise justified, the defender has no duty or other obligation to retreat from their home or any other place they have a lawful right to be.
- West Virginia emphasizes that the threat of death or great bodily injury must be reasonably feared by a defender when outside their home, not necessarily the commission of a felony.
You will find West Virginia’s self-defense law to be predominantly consistent with other laws throughout the land but particularly those of the American South and Southwest.
In short, West Virginia permits a citizen to use a lethal force in self-defense, at home or outside of the home, with no obligation to retreat from a threat so long as they have a reasonable fear that deadly force will be used against them or a third party.
The law further specifies regarding defense of an occupied residence or dwelling that lethal force may be used if the occupant reasonably believes that any intruder or potential intruder Intends to commit a felony in the home and the defender believes that deadly force is necessary to stop the commission of said felony.
Put into layman’s terms, this means that lethal force may be employed to halt the illegal entry of an occupied home or the imminent illegal entry of an occupied home.
West Virginia law is also noteworthy for plainly affirming that any justified use of proportionate force under the relevant statutes constitutes a complete and total defense to any civil action that might be brought against the victim by the assailant in the matter.
This is a crucially important concept to prevent frivolous litigations being used to maliciously attack the victim of a prior crime by the perpetrator. Statutes of this type are increasingly common today, but they are far from the rule, and this did not always used to be the case.
It is worth noting that West Virginia does not specifically say that lethal force may be used in self-defense outside the home to prevent the commission of a felony or forcible felony.
The justifiable use of lethal force in self-defense is always predicated upon the reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury at the hands of an attacker or intruder.
Practically speaking, this might not make much difference, but you should consider this carefully when the time comes to articulate your perception of the reason why you acted.
Also, the full and complete defense afforded to victims against civil actions being brought to bear by an intruder or assailant are not available to any defender who was attempting to commit or was committing a felony, who initially provoked a use of force against themselves or against someone else with the intention of using the provoked attack as cover against their own use of force, or to the creation or installation of any hazard or dangerous condition on or around any real property intended to prevent criminal conduct through the infliction of injury.
In other words, you cannot place traps and call it self-defense even if you do catch a bona fide.
Last but not least and it should not need mentioning that absolutely nothing in the state statutes authorizes or justifies a person resisting or otherwise obstructing any law enforcement officer from carrying out their lawful duty.
West Virginia’s self-defense law is completely reasonable, succinct and features a strong stand-your-ground bias integrated throughout.
So long as a person is not engaged in any other criminal activity and is in any place they have a legal, lawful right to be they have the right to defend themselves against anyone threatening them with death or great bodily injury by using a lethal force in self-defense.
Relevant West Virginia Use of Force Statutes
55-7-22. Civil Relief for Persons Resisting Certain Criminal Activities
(a) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence is justified in using reasonable and proportionate force, including deadly force, against an intruder or attacker to prevent a forcible entry into the home or residence or to terminate the intruder’s or attacker’s unlawful entry if the occupant reasonably apprehends that the intruder or attacker may kill or inflict serious bodily harm upon the occupant or others in the home or residence or if the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder or attacker intends to commit a felony in the home or residence and the occupant reasonably believes deadly force is necessary.
(b) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence does not have a duty to retreat from an intruder or attacker in the circumstances described in subsection (a) of this section.
(c) A person not engaged in unlawful activity who is attacked in any place he or she has a legal right to be outside of his or her home or residence may use reasonable and proportionate force against an intruder or attacker: Provided, That such person may use deadly force against an intruder or attacker in a place that is not his or her residence without a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that he or she or another is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he or she or another can only be saved by the use of deadly force against the intruder or attacker.
(d) The justified use of reasonable and proportionate force under this section shall constitute a full and complete defense to any civil action brought by an intruder or attacker against a person using such force.
(e) The full and complete civil defense created by the provisions of this section is not available to a person who:
(1) Is attempting to commit, committing or escaping from the commission of a felony;
(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself herself or another with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant; or
(3) Otherwise initially provokes the use of force against himself herself or another, unless he or she withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.
(f) The provisions of this section do not apply to the creation of a hazardous or dangerous condition on or in any real or personal property designed to prevent criminal conduct or cause injury to a person engaging in criminal conduct.
(g) Nothing in this section shall authorize or justify a person to resist or obstruct a law-enforcement officer acting in the course of his or her duty.
61-2-1. First and Second Degree Murder Defined; Allegations in Indictment for Homicide
Murder by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, burglary, breaking and entering, escape from lawful custody, or a felony offense of manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance as defined in article four, chapter sixty-a of this code, is murder of the first degree. All other murder is murder of the second degree.
In an indictment for murder and manslaughter, it shall not be necessary to set forth the manner in which, or the means by which, the death of the deceased was caused, but it shall be sufficient in every such indictment to charge that the defendant did feloniously, willfully, maliciously, deliberately and unlawfully slay, kill and murder the deceased.
61-2-4. Voluntary Manslaughter; Penalty
Voluntary manslaughter shall be punished by a definite term of imprisonment in the penitentiary which is not less than three nor more than fifteen years. A person imprisoned pursuant to the provisions of this section is not eligible for parole prior to having served a minimum of three years of his or her sentence or the minimum period required by the provisions of section thirteen, article twelve, chapter sixty-two, whichever is greater.
61-2-5. Involuntary Manslaughter; Penalty
Involuntary manslaughter is a misdemeanor and, any person convicted thereof shall be confined in jail not to exceed one year, or fined not to exceed $1,000, or both, in the discretion of the court.
61-2-9. Malicious or Unlawful Assault; Assault; Battery; Penalties
(a) If any person maliciously shoots, stabs, cuts or wounds any person, or by any means cause him or her bodily injury with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill, he or she, except where it is otherwise provided, is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by confinement in a state correctional facility not less than two nor more than ten years. If the act is done unlawfully, but not maliciously, with the intent aforesaid, the offender is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall either be imprisoned in a state correctional facility not less than one nor more than five years, or be confined in jail not exceeding twelve months and fined not exceeding $500.
(b) Assault. — Any person who unlawfully attempts to commit a violent injury to the person of another or unlawfully commits an act that places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail for not more than six months or fined not more than $100, or both fined and confined.
(c) Battery. — Any person who unlawfully and intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature to the person of another or unlawfully and intentionally causes physical harm to another person is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail for not more than twelve months or fined not more than $500, or both fined and confined.
(d) Any person convicted of a violation of subsection (b) or (c) of this section who has, in the ten years prior to the conviction, been convicted of a violation of either subsection (b) or (c) of this section where the victim was a current or former spouse, current or former sexual or intimate partner, a person with whom the defendant has a child in common, a person with whom the defendant cohabits or has cohabited, a parent or guardian or the defendant’s child or ward at the time of the offense or convicted of a violation of section twenty-eight of this article or has served a period of pretrial diversion for an alleged violation of subsection (b) or (c) of this section or section twenty-eight of this article when the victim has a present or past relationship, upon conviction, is subject to the penalties set forth in section twenty-eight of this article for a second, third or subsequent criminal act of domestic violence offense, as appropriate.
61-2-11. Unlawful Shooting at Another in Street, Alley or Public Resort; Penalty
If any person unlawfully shoot at another person in any street or alley in a city, town or village, or in any place of public resort, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, shall be confined in jail not less than six months nor more than three years, and be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000.