Self-defense is a tricky case to argue, but Washington is a state that does not require a duty to retreat and thus has more leeway in court for you to justify your use of violence in the face of threat. In today’s blog, we will discuss Washington’s self-defense laws and when a self-defense argument could hold up in court.
What Constitutes an Act of Self-Defense?
Under Washington law, you have the right to defend yourself by using necessary reasonable force when you are being attacked or have reason to believe you are about to be attacked. For the purposes of self-defense, “necessary” means that there was no other reasonably effective alternative to the use of force and that the amount of force used was reasonable.
Self-defense is commonly used as a defense to the following situations:
- Malicious mischief
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
The Castle Doctrine and No Duty to Retreat
The State of Washington does not impose a duty to retreat, which means you do not need to try to escape the situation before defending yourself. While there is no official “Stand Your Ground” law in the state, previous case law has set a precedence for this practice. Note that you do not have to actually be attacked or injured in order to defend yourself.
Further, the castle doctrine designates your home or any legally occupied place (e.g. a vehicle) as a place in which you have protections and immunities permitting you to use force to defend against an intruder. Be aware that you cannot use self-defense if you are not allowed to be in the place you are being attacked in.
Justified Use of Force
The use of force is lawful when used out of necessity by:
- a public officer performing a legal duty or a person assisting the officer under their direction;
- a person arresting someone who's committed a felony and is delivering them to police custody;
- a person who's about to be injured in preventing an offense against them or a malicious trespass;
- a property owner detaining someone who enters or stays on their property;
- a carrier of passengers expelling a passenger who refuses to obey applicable regulations; or
- a person preventing a mentally ill, mentally incompetent, or mentally disabled individual from committing a dangerous act.
A homicide that results from an act of self-defense may be excusable if it's committed by accident while in the course a lawful act and as long as there is no criminal negligence or unlawful intent. A homicide is justifiable if it's done:
- in lawful defense of yourself, your spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other person in your presence when it's reasonable to assume that the person you've killed was planning to commit a felony or cause great personal injury; or
- while resisting someone committing a felony upon you, in your presence, or upon a home you're in.
Under certain situations, you may also use force to defend your personal property against a “malicious trespass or interference.” For instance, if someone is entering your home or damaging your property and doing so with an evil intent, you can defend your property by force.
Contact Hester Law Group for Legal Representation!
If you are facing criminal charges, especially of the violent type, you may have an argument for self-defense if you acted in such a way to protect yourself, loved ones, or personal property. Washington is a state that permits the use of force in an act of self-defense, and an experienced defense firm like Hester Law Group can represent you in your case of self-defense in the face of criminal charges.
Contact Hester Law Group today for more information about your self-defense rights.