Legal Dictionary

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W

Justification

This is a defense available to a defendant who has engaged in conduct which the criminal law does not seek to deter or prevent. The traditional justification defenses are Self- Defense, Defense of Others, Defense of Property, Use of Force to Make an Arrest, or in Crime Prevention, Use of Force pursuant to Domestic or Public Authority, and Choice of Evils (Necessity).

  • Self-Defense- A defendant is allowed to use proportionate force against another person in self-defense when he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend against immediate unlawful force employed against the defendant by the other person.
  • Defense of Others – In general, the rules of self-defense apply to this defense. A defendant may use deadly force only when the other person is reasonably believed to be threatened with unlawful force.
  • Defense of Property– A defendant is justified in using force against another person when reasonably believed to be necessary to protect property in the possession of the defendant from imminent and unlawful damage, trespass, or dispossession. Deadly force may not be used to protect property.
  • Law Enforcement Defenses
  1. Arrest, Escape, and Crime Prevention-Police officers and law enforcement personnel are allowed to use force when reasonably believed to be necessary to arrest criminals, prevent an escape, or prevent a crime from being immediately committed. Deadly force may be used to apprehend a felon only if the felon poses a threat of death or bodily injury. There must be a reasonable belief by law enforcement in using deadly force. Deadly force may not be used to arrest a misdemeanant (one who commits a misdemeanor).
  2. Domestic or Public Authority – A public officer may use non-deadly force when reasonably believed to be necessary to enforce a valid law, court order, or legal process. Persons who have responsibility for the care, safety, or discipline of others may use non-deadly force when reasonably believed to be necessary to the discharge of their duties.
  • Necessity – This defense is also called the "Choice of Evils" defense. The Necessity defense is justified in situations where the defendant faces two evils and chooses the better alternative. This defense can only be used when there are no apparent alternatives and there is an immediate threat. This defense does not apply in homicide cases and the defense is not self-created.