woman using self-defense

Self-Defense vs Committing a Crime


The legal system of the United States allows people to defend themselves in the unfortunate event of a violent crime. Self-defense is simply defined as an individual’s right to avoid suffering by employing a sufficient level of counteractive violence. However, the rules regarding self-defense vary from state to state, and this article deals with the regulations that concern Indiana’s law on self-defense.

What Justifies Self-Defense?

The general rule is that self-defense is only justified in cases where force has been used to prevent an immediate threat. The threat could be verbal and qualifies as one as long as it puts the victim in the fear of immediate physical harm. However, offensive words that are not accompanied by infliction of physical harm do not qualify for the use of self-defense. It is worth noting that the use of force in self-defense usually loses its value as soon as the threat ends.

In some cases, self-defense is termed rightful even if the perceived aggressor did not mean any harm to the perceived victim in actuality. What ultimately matters in such situations is a ‘reasonable person’s’ course of actions — whether he/she would have perceived it an immediate threat of physical harm.

Self-defense is defined in pertinent part by Indiana Code 35–41–3–2(c)(d). Essentially, the statute states that a person is justified in using reasonable force against any other person to protect themselves or a third person from what they reasonably believe is the imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if they reasonably believe that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to themself or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony.

In addition, the law asserts that no person, employer, or estate of a person in this state shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting themselves or a third person by reasonable means necessary. Or, if the person reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s unlawful entry of or attack on the person’s dwelling, curtilage, or occupied motor vehicle.

Proportional Response to a Threat

Self-defense necessitates that the response should match the level of threat. Simply put, a person can use only as much force as is required to eliminate the threat. Anything greater would rule out the justification of self-defense.

For example, if the threat involves only minor force and if the victim claiming self-defense decides to use force that could cause severe physical harm or death, the claim will fail.

Duty to retreat

One of the initial laws on self-defense required people to claim self-defense only after they attempted to avoid violence before employing force. This is called ‘duty to retreat’. However, many states removed this rule to avoid ambiguity, including Indiana. Thus, Indiana does not require a person to retreat before exercising self-defense.

Castle Doctrine

Another legal concept related to self-defense, called the “Castle Doctrine,” states that a person can often use lethal/deadly force to prohibit someone from unlawfully entering their home. It enables people to defend their houses against intruders through violence.

Call an Experienced Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyer Now

The impacts of the laws above may vary according to the specific facts pertaining to the case in question. Thus, it is always the right idea to consult an experienced attorney to learn more about how to deal with such situations legally. At Blankenship Law, I offer a free case strategy and guidance through your scariest moment. With this in mind, I encourage you to contact my firm online or at (317) 680-5528 today to schedule your legal consultation in one of our two Indiana offices.

When your life is on the line. I’ve got your back.