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Washington State Self-Defense Laws

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There are many situations where self-defense is justified. If you feel like you are in imminent danger or want to protect someone else, you have the right to fight back against the perpetrator. However, there are certain cases where using force in self-defense could land you in serious legal trouble. 

If a court believes that you used an unnecessary level of force or committed an illegal act, you could face criminal charges. In these situations, it is important to be aware of the self-defense laws in Washington state and speak to a defense lawyer as soon as possible.

When Can You Use Self Defense in Washington?

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9A.16.020, people can lawfully use, attempt to use, or threaten force in very specific circumstances. Examples of scenarios where you could use self-defense include the following. 

  • Whenever you are about to be injured by another party
  • Whenever you are lawfully aiding someone who is about to be injured
  • Whenever you are preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against your person
  • Whenever you are preventing or attempting to prevent a malicious trespass
  • Whenever you are preventing or attempting to prevent malicious interference with your real or personal property
  • Whenever you are reasonably detaining someone who illegally enters or remains in a building or real property
  • Whenever you are trying to prevent a mentally ill, incompetent, or disabled person from committing a dangerous act

You cannot use more force than is necessary to prevent the act. The level of force deemed necessary will depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

For example, if someone is attempting to shoot you, you may need to use lethal force to protect yourself. If you catch an unarmed trespasser on your property, lethal force may not be necessary to detain him or her

Could You Face Prosecution for Using Self-Defense?

According to RCW 9A.16.110, people who use force to protect themselves will not be placed in legal jeopardy. If you feel like you are in danger, you have the right to protect yourself, your family, or your real or personal property by any means necessary.

You also have the right to use force to help another person who is in imminent danger or the victim of any of the following violent crimes.

  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Assault
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Rape
  • Any violent crime defined in RCW 9.94A.030

However, there are certain situations where you could face prosecution for using force in self-defense. For example, if you shoot and kill an unarmed trespasser on your property, a court may deem the level of force unnecessary. You could face criminal charges and serious penalties, including jail time.

Speak to a Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

No one should face criminal charges for defending themselves from harm. If you find yourself in this situation, you need someone who can advocate for your side of the story and fight to protect your best interests. 

Hiring a Washington criminal defense attorney can help. A lawyer will take the time to listen to your story, launch a full investigation into the incident, and craft a compelling case in your favor. Contact a defense attorney as soon as possible following your arrest to discuss your next steps. 

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