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Are you OK to use force to defend yourself?

Imagine the following scenario: You find yourself at home in Richmond when an unknown person attempts to break in. You call law enforcement authorities, but fear that they will not arrive before the intruder gains entry. You feel compelled to answer the threat posed by the intruder with force, and end up severely injuring him or her. Does the law justify your actions

As is the case in many legal matters, the answer is both yes and no. Kentucky state laws imposes no duty to retreat on you if you feel that the use of force (even deadly force) is necessary to protect any of the following: 

  • Your life and/or well-being
  • The lives and/or well-being of others
  • Your home or vehicle
  • Your personal property 

The standard for the use of such force in defense is set in Section 503.030 of Kentucky's Revised Statutes. Here, it says that the use of force is justifiable when it is believed that the public or private injury that could result from not using it would be greater than that which results from employing it. If you are required to use such force to defend yourself and others, law enforcement officials may investigate your claims, but you cannot be arrested unless there is probable cause to believe your actions were unlawful. 

There are, however, exceptions to the right to using force to defend yourself. You cannot use it against a peace officer who is in the course of performing his or her duties. Furthermore, you cannot use force remove someone from a dwelling or vehicle that they are lawfully entitled to be in (nor can you use it against their children). Even in cases where the use of force may be justified, you are still not entitled to use it recklessly. 

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Shumate, Flaherty, Eubanks & Baechtold

225 West Irvine Street
Richmond, KY 40475

Toll Free: 800-494-9916
Phone: 859-353-0878
Fax: 859-623-6406
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P.O. Box 157
Richmond, KY 40476