If you kill someone in self-defense, are you guilty of homicide?
Well, yes, technically speaking, but we’ll get into that more in a minute.
You know as well as I do that lawyers get paid by the page, so any discussion of the legal issues surrounding a self-defense incident could break the internet. We just don’t have that many words available here.
With that said, there are a few issues that are almost universally misunderstood. Let’s address them here, with a goal of introducing the issues. If you choose to carry a gun for self-defense, it’s entirely up to you to understand the applicable laws. No matter how many pages of law our legislators manage to regurgitate. Every state codifies statues like Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground differently, so be sure you understand your local laws.
Self-defense or Homicide?
The short answer is both. When you kill someone during a self-defense situation, you commit homicide. Unlike “normal” legal situations, this situation is a little bit backward. Killing someone in self-defense is not legal. It’s illegal. However, a successful affirmative defense against the “homicide” charge makes the act excusable. It’s a fine distinction. The act of self-defense homicide is technically illegal but deemed excusable due to the circumstances.
Think of it this way. If 007 was visiting our fine country and ran a red light while preventing Goldfinger from setting off a nuclear explosion at Fort Knox, the act of running the red light would still have been illegal. The extenuating circumstances simply excuse consequences of his unlawful behavior. There is no law, to my knowledge, that positively states that it is legal to run a red light, provided the driver is under time duress to prevent a nuclear explosion that would contaminate the country’s gold reserves for tens of thousands of years.