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When is physical force as self-defense legal in New York?

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Article 35 of the New York Penal Law gives individuals the right to take steps to protect themselves and others from acts of violence like assault, as well as to prevent a crime or effect an arrest. Self -defense, which is also known as the defense of justification, is not an affirmative defense like entrapment or insanity, which means the prosecutor in a self-defense case must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the act in question did not meet the legal definition of self-defense. When an affirmative defense is mounted, the burden of proof remains on the defendant.

Self -defense must be reasonable

Self-defense is only justified under New York law when an individual acts reasonably. This means that they must have good reason to believe that another person is committing or is about to commit an act of violence, and they must limit their response to what is reasonably required to prevent the violent act and protect themselves or others. The central argument in many self-defense cases is whether or not the use of deadly force was justified. In New York, deadly physical force is only permitted when an individual reasonably believes that another person is about to use deadly force. Even in this situation, individuals must retreat rather than use deadly force whenever possible unless they are in their own homes.

Citizen arrests and non-violent crimes

New York law allows individuals to use reasonable physical force, but not deadly force, to prevent or stop most non-violent crimes. Property owners or occupiers may use deadly force to prevent arson, attempted arson, burglary or attempted burglary as long as their actions are reasonable. Citizens may also use physical, but not deadly force, to make an arrest or prevent a suspect from fleeing the scene of a crime. However, individuals who use physical force to apprehend or capture suspects must be correct. If they use force against an innocent person, they cannot argue in court that they acted in self-defense.

A complex legal area

The law in New York allows individuals to use physical force up to and including deadly force to prevent crimes or protect themselves and others in specific situations, but they must act reasonably. When the defense of justification is used in court, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that the individual involved either did not have good reason to use physical or deadly force or used excessive force. This is a complex area of the law because determining what is and what is not reasonable is highly subjective.