Legal Articles
Get Started Finding a Local Attorney Now

Simply fill out this form to connect with an Attorney serving your area.

Will I Still Go To Jail If My Homicide Case Involved Self-Defense?

If someone tries to violently harm you or your family, you have the right to fight back to protect yourself. However, when your fighting back leads to the death of your attacker, you may be charged with a homicide. This can be scary for you if you were just trying to defend yourself against someone else's aggression. However, if you can prove in a court of law that the force you used was necessary to repel the aggression, you may not have to go to jail.

Justifiable Homicide: Where To Draw The Line

The first thing you need to do if you killed someone in self defense is to find a good criminal defense lawyer and discuss your case. Tensions are always high where homicide is involved, and without a cool head and a good defense for the court, you will not stand a chance. In addition, justifiable homicide laws differ in every state. For instance, the state of Louisiana defines a justifiable homicide as being in defense of self, property or other person, while other states may use different language. Despite state-based differences, you will generally have to prove three things in order to stand a chance of avoiding jail for your homicide case:

  1. You were attempting to prevent a very serious violent crime such as rape, murder or armed robbery. The attacker's intent to commit said crime must have been clear.
  2. You obeyed a duty to retreat. This means that you initially attempted to avoid the confrontation and only resorted to violent force when you could not escape. This is not universal among all states, and if you are attacked in your home or workplace, it is less important to prove.
  3. There was no other way to prevent the serious violent crime from taking place. This is where most cases are argued in court, because the prosecution often tries to prove that you could have used less force to subdue your attacker or that you could have called the police.

Self Defense is a Case-by-Case Determination

Whether or not you go to jail if your homicide case involved self defense will depend on the specifics of the case. For instance, if you had time to call the police to prevent the crime but chose instead to take the law into your own hands, you will likely go to jail. But if everything happened too quickly and you shoved a would-be rapist into a wall where he snapped his neck and died, you will likely be exonerated. Only a criminal defense lawyer will be able to advise you on the legal specifics of your situation.