The right to defend one’s own life in a dangerous situation is a fundamental component of the American legal system. However, state laws differ on what constitutes appropriate use of force in a self-defense situation. Here in New York, Article 35 of the NY Penal Code lays out specific criteria for a situation that warrants self-defense. Written to provide guidance on this complicated area of the law, Article 35 also clarifies the level of force which is legally appropriate in specific situations.
Justification for self defense against physical force
Section 15 of Article 35 states that a person may use physical force in self-defense “to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself, or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical for by such other person…”
However, this section goes on to clarify several exceptions to this criteria. These exceptions include if “conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person” or if “the actor was the initial aggressor…”
In cases where the unlawful act that motivated self-defense was provoked, the initial actor must have attempted to withdraw from the encounter. Regarding lethal force, “A person may not use deadly physical force upon another under circumstances specified…unless…the actor reasonably that such other is using or about to use deadly physical force.”
Understanding the duty to retreat
New York state law makes it explicitly clear that a person being attacked by deadly force in their home does not have a duty to retreat as long as they were not the initial aggressor. Outside of one’s home, however, a person does a legal duty to retreat and take reasonable steps to try and avoid using violence in self-defense. If a person has performed their duty to retreat and clearly communicated intent to de-escalate a potentially violent situation, then using force for the sole purpose of self-defense may be a legal option.
Know your rights to protect yourself
Tillem & Associates Carry (TAC) Defense is New York’s only prepaid self-defense law firm specializing in legal services for lawful firearm owners. Clients have access to 24/7 emergency response services and on-demand access to answers from attorneys that specialize in Second Amendment rights.