Whether in the bar, at a concert or even in your own home, you may find yourself in a physical altercation with another person. In the moment, when adrenaline is high and you’re throwing punches or firing shots, you may not be thinking of the legal consequences of the fight. However, once you cool down, you may wonder whether you will face an assault conviction or worse, or if you can use self-defense as a legal defense to the charges.
The right to self-defense
The Oklahoma legislature has established that you have the right to defend yourself from attack no matter where you are – meaning that you have no duty to retreat before defending yourself here, like you do in some other states. Wherever you are, if someone starts an altercation with you, you can use physical force, and sometimes even deadly force, to defend yourself.
The important thing to know about self-defense is that the force you use must be proportional to the attack if you want to avoid legal liability for the injuries you cause. This means that, in most situations, you cannot use deadly force to defend against non-deadly force.
For example, if someone shoves or punches you, you cannot legally respond by firing a gun at your assailant unless you genuinely believe that you are in mortal danger and that your attacker is trying to kill you.
The Self Defense Act
In Oklahoma, an important law – known as the Self Defense Act – creates an exception to this rule. Under the Act, if someone breaks into your house, car, or workplace without permission, the courts will automatically assume that your life was threatened – and thus that you were justified in using deadly force to defend yourself.
However, if you’re not in your home, vehicle or workplace when the altercation occurs, it’s best to keep your response proportional to the severity of the attack. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to face criminal charges for homicide, or for seriously injuring the other party.
Self-defense is an extremely important right that keeps millions of Americans safe from attack every year. Knowing how to keep your response proportionate to the attack can mean the difference between the court clearing you of all charges and a lengthy prison sentence.