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“One’s Home is Their Castle”. Justification Defenses in Arizona

Recent Amendment expands protections under Arizona’s “Stand Your Ground” Laws; not only to their homes, business, but anywhere else in Arizona “they have the right to be”.

Amidst heated debates over “Stand Your Ground” laws Arizona, businesses and homeowners continue to do what they must, to protect their home and property from intruders. For centuries, “Stand Your Ground” laws have existed and also referred to as the “Castle Doctrine” influenced by the age old adage “One’s home is their castle.”

Most states have some form of “Stand Your Ground” laws. These laws pertain to defenses that justify one’s actions, in what would otherwise be considered criminal conduct. Arizona has some of the broadest, most liberal “Stand-Your-Ground” laws in the country. One such provision is that a person can be protected under the laws if an incident where deadly physical force is reasonably necessary outside their home. In fact, it applies anywhere in Arizona where they “have the right to be”.

Under Arizona criminal code, these laws fall under the category of “Justification Defenses”.  These afford protection to the use of deadly force against another person, which if applicable may be considered justified under law. Criminal Laws that govern Justification Defenses may apply when a person finds it necessary to use lethal force in self-defense under A.R.S. 13-404, or to prevent a dangerous crimes such as kidnapping, armed robbery, sexual assault, molestation or dangerous victim crimes under A.R.S. 13-411.

Another one of the state’s broad provisions under “Castle laws” under A.R.S. 13-411 is that there is “no duty to retreat” by a homeowner, or other person before the use or threaten to use deadly physical force in the event one of the specified dangerous crimes is in progress, or attempted.

In Phoenix, late last week, a homeowner woke up to find an intruder in his home, and allegedly shot him in the early hours of the morning. The intruder suffered serious facial wounds after the homeowner shot him after the intruder attempted to enter the homeowner’s bedroom in the early morning hours. It was reported that the intruder was found by police with one foot in the homeowner’s bedroom doorway. The intruder is expected to survive at this point. During the scene investigation, police allegedly learned that the homeowner was a qualified Arizona Medical Marijuana Cardholder Holder, and that he was cultivating twice the amount of Marijuana than is legal under the Medical Marijuana Law.

Since this is a developing story, it is unknown what criminal charges have been or will be brought against the homeowner or the intruder.  With regard to the homeowner, he could be potentially exposed to drug charges for possessing at least 24 Marijuana plants, an amount that exceeds the Medical Marijuana limit of 12 plants. But in the unlikely event charges are brought by against the homeowner, in absence of provocation, by the homeowner would have a strong argument for use of force with a deadly weapon under the Justification Defense Laws of Arizona, resulting from the home invasion.

In absence of such circumstances a person using a deadly weapon or shooting another would result have resulted in serious criminal charges such as aggravated assault Under A.R.S. 13-1204.  A person may be guilty of aggravated assault if the person commits assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon or instrument against another. Charges in the given circumstance might have otherwise been brought as a Class 3 felony.

A closer look at Justification Laws in Arizona  

When the Justification Defense offense is under to defend criminal charges, it means that the defendant doesn’t deny that an act was committed; but that they were justified in defending themselves, their families, or property in self-defense or prevention of a serious crime against them.

Arizona’s A.R.S.13-404 Justification for use of physical or deadly force is applicable for in an incident involvingself-defense”. This defense applies when a person uses threatening or physical force against another when a person reasonably believes it is necessary to protect themselves against another’s use or attempt to use unlawful physical force.  However, this defense is unjustified if:

  • It is a response to verbal provocation only;
  • Resisting arrest by police, unless police use more force than required by law to restrain a suspect;
  • The intruder, or aggressor clearly communicates their wishes to or safely withdraw from the unlawful encounter

Arizona’s A.R.S.13-411 (A). This Justification defense is used as a result of someone trying to “prevent a crime”. It is applicable when a person reasonably believes reasonable or deadly force immediately needs to prevent a dangerous victim crime against a victim such as burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, sexual misconduct or assault involving a minor, armed robbery, or aggravated assault. There is no duty to retreat before threatening or using physical force or deadly physical force in this section.

This applies if the threatened, attempted crime or crime in progress occurs in a person’s home or other residence, their business, land they owned or rent, a vehicle or conveyance, or anywhere in this state where a person has the right to be.

Note the last phrase “anywhere in this state where a person as the right to be”. This language stems from a 2010 Arizona amendment to the “Stand Your Ground” law which passed in 2010, making the ability to stand one’s ground even broader. This means under A.R.S 13-4011 a person is allowed to use such physical or deadly force for preventing a crime described above, in any location in Arizona, where a person lawfully “has the right to be”. This may be a countless number of locations throughout the state including public streets, highways, occupied public places, and anywhere the resident is lawfully located at the time of an encounter.

In light of recent controversial court decisions, state legislators are requesting a formal review of Arizona’s broad “Stand Your Ground” laws, and the 2010 Amendment. Their fear is that people who would otherwise avoid a violent confrontation may be compelled to engage in it, assuming that their actions will be protected regardless of circumstances.

Criminal Defense in Maricopa County

It is important to consult a criminal defense attorney if you face any type of aggravated assault, or any type of charges involving use of a lethal weapon or deadly instrument. Convictions for these types of felony crimes are aggravated, and call for long term prison sentencing, restitution, and a number of other serious penalties. If arrested for any crime you have the right to defend your charges, and to hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer to represent you. If you have active charges, in the Phoenix or East Valley areas, including Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Gilbert, call the Law Office of James Novak, PLLC at (480) 413-1499 for a free consultation.

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