When it comes to defending a person charged with a crime, there are a number of different avenues we choose to pursue. Sometimes we challenge aspects of due process, other times we challenge the officer’s version of events, and sometimes we state that our client was only acting in self-defense. An argument of self defense suggests that our client only committed their actions because the feared for their safety, the safety of others, or the safety of their property.
However, as we learned with the Little Falls case, there are some limits to self defense. Just because a person commits a crime to you or your property does not mean you can use unreasonable force. In the Little Falls case, a man who had regularly had his house broken into laid in wait in his basement with a shotgun when he heard two teens enter his home. He killed the first teen when he descended the stairs, and he wounded the second when she did the same. Instead of calling the police, the homeowner stated that he approached the second teen and delivered a “kill shot.”
Byron David Smith was convicted on two counts of premeditated murder for those killings. Under Minnesota law, a person may use deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in their home, but their actions must be considered “reasonable under the circumstances.” The jury decided Smith’s use of force were not reasonable given the scenario.
Stand Your Ground Law Proposal
Smith’s conviction is coming back into the spotlight after the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee voted to introduce a bill that would expand a person’s right to use firearms to protect themselves. HF 238 states that it would be legal for people to use deadly force to defend their home of if they feel their life is threatened. Here’s an overview of the proposal:
Deadly force is authorized to: (1) resist or prevent the commission of what the occupant reasonably believes is a felony in the person’s dwelling; (2) resist or prevent an offense by an assailant that the person reasonably believes constitutes an imminent threat to oneself or another person of substantial or great bodily harm or death; and (3) resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is the commission of a forcible felony. Prohibits the use of defensive force against peace officers involved in lawful conduct.
Authorizes an individual to remain in any place the person has a legal right to be and use all force and means to succeed in defense against attack. Force need not be proportional to the attacker’s force, as long as the person’s objective is defense. Allows a person to continue defensive actions against an assailant until the threat ends.
Creates a presumption that a person entering or attempting to enter by force or stealth into a person’s dwelling or occupied motor vehicle is doing so with the intent to use life-threatening force. Allows for the use of defensive action if an individual or another person is being removed by force from a dwelling or occupied vehicle. This presumption does not apply if the person against whom force is being used is a lawful resident of the dwelling or a lawful possessor of the vehicle, or has lawful custody of the person being removed from the dwelling or vehicle. A person who is prohibited from contacting the individual or from entering a dwelling or possessing a vehicle of the individual is not considered a lawful resident or lawful possessor of the individual’s dwelling or vehicle. Denies criminals the right to use defensive force and prohibits the use of defensive force against peace officers involved in lawful conduct.
So while the state is seeking to expand the current law, it doesn’t really appear to be changing much when it comes to your right to self defense. Your use of deadly force must be justifiable and reasonable. Ultimately, the evidence will decide whether your choices were considered reasonable, but as long as you continued to feel threatened while you were taking action, a good criminal defense attorney should be able to help successfully explain your case to the jury. For more information on how we argue self defense, contact Appelman Law Firm today.