What Are the Limitations of Arizona Self-Defense Laws?

We often hear that violence is never the answer. But what happens when you are placed in a dangerous situation and you must protect yourself? In Arizona, people are allowed to threaten to use or actually use physical force when they are faced with unlawful physical force or when they are attempting to prevent specific crimes designated by state law. So when can someone claim self-defense, and what are its limitations?

According to Arizona law, people are justified in using physical force when a reasonable person, in their shoes, would believe that it is necessary in order to protect against an immediate threat. However, this does not mean that someone can use any type of physical force. The physical force that is used must be considered reasonable and proportional to the threat at hand. Additionally, the threat that an individual is defending against must be immediate. Essentially the physical force that is used must be that which is necessary to protect against another’s immediate unlawful force. 

The Court looks to a two-part test when determining whether the force used was in fact self-defense. It takes up the “Objective Reasonable Man” Test, asking the jury to determine how a reasonable person would have reacted if placed in the same or similar circumstances as the defendant. Additionally, the jury must decide whether the defendant reasonably believed that he or she was in fact in immediate danger. If it is found that the force utilized was disproportionate or unreasonable given the specific circumstances, it may not be considered self-defense. 

Can You Defend the Safety of Others?

Under ARS 13-406, someone may defend another person under the same restrictions of which they could have defended themselves. In other words, the Court looks at whether the individual you have defended would have been justified in using self-defense, and if the force or threat that you used to protect him or her was reasonable, proportional, and immediately necessary.

When Can You Use Deadly Force?

Under ARS 13-405, the use of deadly force is limited to very narrow circumstances in Arizona. An individual may use deadly force only if in reasonable fear of immediate serious physical injury or death. The Court looks at whether a reasonable person, in the same position as the defendant, would believe that deadly force was immediately necessary in order to protect against potentially deadly force. It is important to remember that short of an immediate threat of serious physical injury or death, deadly force is not considered self-defense. 

Additionally, Arizona does not require that you first try to retreat when someone threatens or assaults you so long as you are in a location that you have the right to be in and are not engaging in an unlawful act. 

Under ARS 13-411, Arizona allows self-defense when preventing the commission of certain serious crimes. Such crimes include:

  • Armed robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Sex crimes
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Sexual Conduct with a minor
  • Child Molestation

However, for your actions to be considered self-defense, you must be in a location that you are entitled to be in and must use reasonable force for what is an immediate threat. 

When is Self-Defense Not Applicable?

What are other instances in which self-defense doesn’t apply? Here are other limitations to self-defense in Arizona. Self-defense is not applicable when:

  • You are only confronted with a verbal provocation but no physical force
  • You are resisting arrest made by law enforcement – unless the officer was using unreasonable, excessive, and unlawful force
  • You provoked the initial encounter – unless you in good faith withdraw from the combat to show the other person your intent in good faith to stop the encounter
  • It is not immediately necessary (the threat to you must be in the present moment)

Arizona Lawyers Helps Those in Arizona Who Have Acted in Self-Defense

If you or someone you know has been accused of assault but was acting in self-defense, it is important that you are protected for your actions. Seeking the help of a knowledgeable and experienced Criminal Defense Attorney can be the difference between having your charges dropped or receiving a criminal sentence, either of which will impact the rest of your life. At Arizona Lawyers, we give our all to aggressively defend you and your rights. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!