Normally, it’s a crime to shoot someone. You can’t just go around waving your gun and pulling the trigger. Similarly, the law tends to frown upon hitting and kicking. But there are cases in which your use of force may be justified, even when it involves a gun.
Every state—including Indiana—allows people to use force to defend themselves. However, the laws for the different states can vary. This means you want to know the laws for the state you’re in. And the recent case of an Indiana man charged with shooting two judges offers a timely prompt to explore Indiana’s self-defense laws.
When force may be justified
Indiana code 35-41-3-2 addresses the “use of force to protect person or property.” Actions that might normally be charged as violent crimes may sometimes not be crimes at all. It depends on the situation. You may use force to:
- Protect yourself or another person from the immediate and illegal use of force
- Spare yourself or someone else from serious bodily harm
- Stop someone from invading your home, yard or motor vehicle
- Thwart the hijacking of an airplane on the ground or in the air above Indiana
Essentially, as the law notes, you have a right to defend yourself and others from “physical harm and crime.”
When force isn’t justified
Even if you feel threatened, there are times the law won’t recognize your actions as self-defense. You might not be able to claim self-defense if:
- You were committing a crime or trying to make your getaway
- You started the fight
In other words, you’re going to have a hard time convincing a jury you were acting in self-defense if you drew your gun first. In that case, it may not matter whether the other person tried to shoot you or took a swing at your head.
Limits on the use of force
The law says you don’t have a “duty to retreat,” but that doesn’t mean you can reach straight for your gun. The law makes multiple efforts to define a “reasonable” use of force, meaning if you go to court, the court will decide:
- If you used a “reasonable” amount of force—or if it was not reasonable for the circumstances
- If you “reasonably” believed your use of force was necessary
If the Indiana shooter was telling the truth, then he may have a case for self-defense. His story was that the men he shot had choked, beaten and kicked him before he drew his gun. If so, he might convince the jury he was outnumbered and did only what was reasonable and necessary to protect himself.
Hold your ground
At Kammen & Moudy, we understand there are multiple ways to view every incident. What looks like a violent crime from one point of view may look like self-defense from another. That’s why our attorneys work hard to get all the facts. Juries need to understand events from all the important points of view before they can make a good decision about whether an action is a violent crime or reasonable self-defense.