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Posted on April 8, 2020 in Arizona Law

Arizona Self-Defense Laws

Here in Arizona, you have the legal right to use physical force – sometimes, deadly force – to protect yourself… as long as you act reasonably. 

What action, though, meets the legal guidelines of self-defense? When can a self-defense strategy be used in a criminal defense case?

Because you may be charged by law enforcement officials with a violent crime even if you use deadly force to protect yourself, knowing the limits of legalized self-defense is vital to ensuring your freedom.

Self-Defense Laws in Arizona at a Glance

Your rights to self-defense in the Grand Canyon State are protected by Arizona state law.

  • The right to use physical force. Under Arizona Revised Statute 404, you have the legal right to use or threaten to use physical force against another person if you do it immediately to protect yourself against their use of unlawful physical force against you.

  • The right to use deadly physical force. Arizona Revised Statute 405 grants you the legal justification to immediately use or threaten to use deadly physical force against someone else who tries to use it against you.

  • The right to use force to protect someone else. There is a specific Arizona law that extends self-defense protection to prevent certain crimes – sexual assault, burglary, arson, kidnapping, manslaughter, child molestation, aggravated assault, and murder – from occurring. The action you take to stop the crime must take place in the moment of crisis.

  • The right to use force to protect your property and possessions.  Under ARS 13-408, you have the right to use a certain amount of immediate physical force to prevent the theft or damage to your property or possessions. 

All of these laws contain language that you are authorized to use such force only if it’s ruled that a reasonable person would do the same thing in a similar situation.

Exceptions to Self-Defense Laws in Arizona 

Although the above statutes do provide you with the right to defend yourself in the face of immediate harm, they do not give you a “license to kill.”

  • You cannot use or threaten to use force in response to a verbal threat. If someone else merely says they are going to hurt you, that’s not a strong enough legal reason for you to use or threaten to use physical force against them.

  • You can’t use or threaten to use physical force while resisting arrest. Even if you’re being wrongfully arrested, you cannot use force against a law enforcement official.

  • You’re not authorized to use force if you started the argument. If you provoked the other person into using or threatening to use physical force, your self-defense claims are no longer valid. However, in this scenario you could still be protected by self-defense laws if you tried to leave the situation, but the other person still tried to use force against you. 

Again, it often boils down to what a reasonable person would do in a similar situation. 

When Immediate Force is Justified

In order for your claim of self-defense to have legal legs to stand on in an Arizona court, you must have been in immediate danger. 

This means the other person was in the actual act of harming you. The legal protection of a self-defense claim goes out the window if the danger you prevented wasn’t imminent or happening when you took action. 

For example, if someone pointed a gun directly in your face, you’d most likely be legally justified in stopping the threat. 

On the other hand, if that person showed you their gun and later verbally threatened to shoot you, you would not be legally protected under self-defense guidelines.

Based upon our experience, a self-defense legal strategy can be especially effective to prevent instances of:

Under these scenarios, you’re not required to retreat first before using force or deadly physical force to protect yourself. The force is justified if you believe that the crime against you was imminent or the actual crime has just occurred. 

Self-Defense Is an Affirmative Defense

When using a self-defense claim in an Arizona court, you’re essentially admitting to the act while arguing that you should be spared the legal consequences. 

With a self-defense claim, you’re essentially saying, “I did what I’m accused of, but I did it for the right reasons.” 

Once you claim self-defense in court, it’s then up to the state or prosecutor to prove beyond doubt that a reasonable person would not have taken the same actions. 

Because it must be proven you were in immediate danger or that a certain crime was about to be committed, most self-defense cases involve an intense fact-finding process to simulate the event as closely as possible. 

This is necessary to show the court how a reasonable person would react in a similar situation.