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Today’s Law of Self Defense post based on a shooting reported this past Monday evening in Alaska.
The news reports that a homeowner confronted two trespassers. The homeowner was threatened with death by one of them as the two trespassers sat in a car. The homeowner shot and killed the man who threatened him, then emptied his pistol into the second man who lunged towards the rear of the vehicle, killing him, as well. The homeowner then called 911, reported what happened, and waited by the end of the driveway for the police to arrive.
Result - Homeowner - Counts - Murder
The result: the homeowner has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
So, how does a homeowner end up charged with two counts of first-degree murder on these facts?
Homeowner - Elements - Claim - Self-defense - Element
Well, the homeowner violated one of the required elements of a claim of self-defense, the element of imminence. The element of imminence essentially holds that in order for your use of defensive force to be lawful, it must be force necessary to stop an imminent harm to you. That is, the harm you are defending yourself against must either be actually happening, be in progress, or be about to happen right now. Example: “I’m going to draw my pistol and shoot you,” as the speaker reaches for his holstered pistol.
Conversely, a threat of future harm is insufficient to justify a use of deadly defensive force, if by future harm we mean some prospective future event that is not about to happen right now. Example: “I’m going to go home, get a gun, come back here, and shoot you.” For this kind of future, prospective threat that may or may not ever actually happen, the law expects you to pursue other options rather than an immediate use of defensive force. Call the police, seek the assistance of others, leave...
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