The defense of justification is often times also referred to as self-defense, however justification is a much broader defense which includes, self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property.  The question often raised in situations where the defense of justification may be applicable centers on whether the amount of force used was reasonable as the law only allows the use of “reasonable force” to protect yourself, another, or property.  In order to raise this defense the accused must provide notice within forty days of arraignment and produce substantial evidence that the defense was applicable.  If the accused is able to provide substantial evidence the defense is applicable, then the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt justification did not exist.

Justification is not available if the State is able to prove any of the following: (1) the defendant initiated or continued the incident resulting in injury or (2) the defendant did not believe he was in imminent danger of death or injury and the use of force was not necessary to save him/her or (3) the defendant had no reasonable grounds for such belief or (4) the force used was unreasonable.  Moreover, this defense is not available if there was “an alternative course of action” that did not risk life or safety of the actor or a third party.  However, the “alternative course of action” doctrine does not apply when in the defender’s dwelling, place of business, or employment.

Whether defending your-self, a third person, or property, the key is going to be whether the amount of force used was reasonable.  What force is reasonable is going to in large part depend on the unique facts of each case.

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