Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on August 19, 2022.
Please note that our law firm practices law solely in the state of Indiana, and therefore cannot provide legal services outside of this jurisdiction.
Self-defense is a primal legal concept. When presented with danger, there is a human instinct to defend yourself. So what happens if you kill someone in self-defense? Can you be charged with murder? Unfortunately, it is not a clear-cut answer.
Throughout the United States, self-defense laws justify a person’s use of lethal force to protect themselves from death or serious bodily injury. It may seem like a simple concept, but in actuality, it can be surprisingly complex. People often wonder, How can you be charged with murder for self-defense?
If you kill someone, even if you were protecting yourself or someone you love, you will likely face probing questions from the police and prosecutor. They are mainly seeking to determine if the killing was accidental or if you were justified in your actions. It is imperative that you have a criminal defense lawyer at your side to protect your interests during all such conversations with police and investigators.
Self-Defense Indiana Law
Under Indiana law, a person is justified in using reasonable force against another to protect themselves from what they reasonably believe to be an imminent use of unlawful force. In other words, if your life is in immediate danger, you have the right to protect yourself.
The Indiana legislature further declares a person is justified in using deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if they reasonably believe that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to themselves or a third person.
Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws
The Castle Doctrine is another old and deeply-rooted legal concept that has been recognized for hundreds of years. Often referred to as “Stand Your Ground” laws, the concept is the same. It states that every person has the right to feel safe and secure in their own home and has the right to protect themselves and their family.
A person is justified in using reasonable force, including deadly force, if they reasonably believe such force is necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s unlawful entry into or attack on their dwelling. This includes their motor vehicle.
However, the scary truth is that you may still face a murder charge if you kill someone in self-defense. But ultimately, your actions are justified if you can prove they were necessary to protect yourself or a third person. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be instrumental in helping you articulate your defense.
Self-Defense v. Manslaughter
If you have had to protect yourself using deadly force, there will undoubtedly be an investigation to determine whether your actions constitute justifiable self-defense or the criminal charge of manslaughter.
There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter is when an individual knowingly or intentionally kills another while provoked or in the heat of the moment. On the other hand, involuntary manslaughter occurs when an individual acts in a reckless manner that results in the death of another person.
There can be a fine line between self-defense and manslaughter. Let our experienced lawyers at Eskew Law help.
How Do I Prove It Was Self-Defense?
Proving you acted in self-defense is not as simple as it may sound. To win a self-defense claim under Indiana law, you must satisfy several elements. Your attorney must prove:
- You were in a place where you had a legal right to be;
- You did not provoke, instigate, or participate willingly in the violence;
- You had a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm; and
- The danger was imminent and justified the use of force, including deadly force.
As the defendant, you must prove all of these elements were present. The best evidence would be the eyewitness testimony of someone who witnessed the events unfold. However, your lawyer can use other methods to prove a valid self-defense claim, including your own testimony, surveillance video, and forensic evidence.
Contact the Attorneys at Eskew Law Today
If you had to use lethal force to defend yourself, you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. You have the right to defend yourself, but prosecutors and police do not have to take your word for it. They will want proof. Mapping out your self-defense claim as early as possible is key to avoiding a murder or manslaughter conviction. At Eskew Law, each client receives personal one-on-one contact with our attorneys, and we never pass your case off to a paralegal or assistant. Your freedom and family matter most to us. Call us to schedule a confidential consultation.