Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on November 22, 2021.

Indiana Self-Defense Laws
Please note that our law firm practices law solely in the state of Indiana, and therefore cannot provide legal services outside of this jurisdiction.

Indiana self-defense laws are covered under Indiana Code 35-41-2.

They strongly support the principle that people have the right to defend themselves and others from physical harm and crime.

These laws also protect someone’s right to feel safe and secure in their own home against unlawful intrusions. 

Self-defense is an affirmative defense. This means you are admitting guilt to something that would otherwise be a crime, like assault, however you are asking the court to find that your actions were justified.

When Is Self-Defense Justified in Indiana?

You would be justified in using reasonable force against an attacker to protect yourself or another person. You must have a reasonable belief that you are protecting yourself from the imminent use of unlawful force.

You would also be justified in using reasonable force if it is necessary to immediately stop someone’s trespass or criminal interference with property.

The property must be in your possession, in the possession of someone in your immediate family, or belong to someone whose property you have the authority to protect.

Deadly force is justified if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury or a forcible felony. 

Quick Facts You Should Know About Indiana Self-Defense Laws

Some quick facts you should know about self-defense:

  • You do not have a duty to retreat if you are justified in using force to defend yourself, even if it is deadly force.
  • You must not instigate the situation. If you start a fight, you don’t have the right to claim self-defense when someone attacks back. 
  • You must have a reasonable belief that the attacker is going to harm you with unlawful force. It would not be reasonable to punch your friend in the face because they yelled at you in anger.
  • The amount of force used must be proportionate to the amount of force used by the attacker. It would not be proportionate to bring a gun to a fistfight.
  • The right to defend yourself ends when the danger ends. If you are defending yourself and your attacker runs away, you cannot run after them to continue the attack.

You cannot claim self-defense if you are committing a forcible felony or trying to escape after committing a forcible felony.

You also cannot claim self-defense if you willingly got involved in a fistfight, unless you tried to withdraw and the other person continued to attack.

How Do You Prove Self-Defense Under Indiana Law?

Every case of self-defense is extremely fact-sensitive. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor that you have a valid self-defense claim and avoid trial.

If not, your case will go to trial and be presented to a judge or jury. It is the State’s burden to disprove any one of these elements to obtain a conviction:

  • You were somewhere that you had a right to be;
  • You acted without fault;
  • You did not provoke, or willingly participate in the violence; and 
  • You had a reasonable fear of harm or death.

The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not act in self-defense.

What Is the Indiana Stand Your Ground Law?

The Stand Your Ground Law, also called the Castle Doctrine, says that you have the right to defend yourself in your own home, even by deadly force.

You do not have the duty to retreat if you are defending an attack on your home or occupied vehicle.. You do not have to show that you reasonably believed the person would have hurt you or someone else.

The proof of the threat is that the person illegally entered or attacked your home. The doctrine only applies to your home and the attached property, or your occupied vehicle.

If someone attacks your unoccupied car, deadly force would not be justified because there is no threat of harm to a person. 

Are There Any Civil Liabilities for Self-Defense?

The House Enrolled Act No. 1284 to prevent civil responsibility for damages if you used justified self-defense and the other person was committing a forcible felony.

Before this act passed, people who defended themselves against an attack could find themselves civilly liable by the attacker or their family.

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney

It is crucial that you call a competent criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you were charged with a crime.

The experienced attorneys at Eskew Law  will review your case, discuss your options, and work with you to develop a defense strategy.

We take this responsibility seriously for all of our clients throughout Indianapolis and Central Indiana.

Your life and liberty are too important to hire just anyone. Call Eskew Law today to schedule a consultation, or contact us through our website

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Chris Eskew

Chris Eskew is the founding partner of Eskew Law. With over 15 years of experience, he focuses his practice on criminal defense, DUI defense, and family law. Chris is known for his dedication to his clients, his strong advocacy skills, and his commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes in legal matters. He is well-respected within the legal community and has earned a reputation for providing personalized and effective representation.