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What Happens if You Shoot Someone in Self-Defense?

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We never know when we could become victims of a violent crime. If you feel like you are in imminent danger and own a firearm, you may want to shoot the perpetrator to protect yourself and your family.

However, there are some situations where shooting someone in self-defense could lead to serious consequences. In these cases, it is important to be aware of Washington’s self-defense laws.

Self-Defense Laws in Washington

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9A.16.020 states that a person can use, attempt, or offer to use force upon or toward another in certain circumstances. A person cannot use more force than is necessary for the situation.  

Examples of instances where you could lawfully claim self-defense include the following.

  • You are a public officer performing a legal duty or are assisting a public officer under his or her direction.
  • You are about to be injured and are preventing an offense against your person.
  • You are preventing or attempting to prevent a malicious trespass.
  • You are a property owner and detain someone who unlawfully enters or stays on your property.
  • You are trying to prevent someone who is mentally ill, disabled, or incompetent from committing a dangerous act.

Additionally, RCW 9A.16.030 states that homicide is excusable if it occurs accidentally while performing an unlawful act. However, no criminal negligence or unlawful intent may be involved. 

Washington also has laws on justifiable homicide. According to RCW 9A.16.050, homicide is justifiable in the following situations.

  • When you are lawfully defending yourself, your family, or another person, and you could reasonably assume that the deceased was planning to commit a felony or cause significant personal injury
  • When you are resisting someone who is committing a felony upon you, in your presence, or upon your home or dwelling

What Happens If You Shoot Someone in Self-Defense?

Gunshot wounds can cause serious injuries and death. If you shoot and kill or seriously harm someone, you will not face legal consequences as long as the situation fits within the definitions of self-defense or justifiable or excusable homicide.

For example, say that you are in your home and a person forcefully enters with a gun. You could use a firearm against them to defend yourself and your family. However, if you apprehend an unarmed trespasser on your property and shoot him or her while he or she is running away, the court may view the act in a different light.

It is possible to face criminal charges after shooting someone in self-defense. Depending on the situation, you could face serious penalties for manslaughter or even homicide. In these cases, it is important to consult with a Washington defense lawyer who can defend you against these accusations and help establish that your actions were lawful. 

Are You Facing Criminal Charges for Acting in Self-Defense?

If you shoot someone in self-defense and are facing criminal charges, you need an attorney on your side. Your lawyer can advocate for your side of the story and help you fight for the best possible outcome. An attorney can provide valuable support and advice during each stage of your case.

As soon as possible after your arrest, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and strategize your next steps.

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