Washington law allows for the use of force under certain circumstances. RCW 9A.16.020 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.16.020) outlines the circumstances under which a person can legally use force. The lawful use of force/self defense most commonly arises under three situations:
- Self Defense
- Defense of Others
- Defense of Property
Washington Law allows a person to use reasonable force to defend themselves when they are being attacked or have a reasonable belief that they are about to be attacked. A person may not use more force than is necessary given the situation.
The law does not impose a duty to retreat. This means that if you are in your home, you do not have to try to escape the situation before defending yourself. This is otherwise called, the “Stand Your Ground Rule” in Washington. On the other hand, you cannot raise self defense if you are not allowed to be in the place you are being attacked in the first place.
You do not have to actually be attacked or injured in order to defend yourself. Washington law allows you to defend yourself if you reasonably believe you are about to be injured.
Self defense is commonly used as a defense to:
- Assault (DV)
- Malicious Mischief (DV)
- Disorderly Conduct (DV)
- Harassment (DV)
Defense of Others
Washington Law states that the use of force is lawful whenever used to prevent an offense against another person. This means that under certain circumstances, you may use force to protect another person. Like self defense, defense of other requires that you only use a reasonable amount of force to protect another person. Also like in self defense, the person you are protecting must not be trespassing at the time of the incident.
Defense of Property
Under certain situations, a person may use force to defend against a “malicious trespass or interference” with real or personal property. This means that if someone is entering your home or taking or damaging your property and they are doing so with an evil purpose, you can defend your property by force. The same rules apply to this defense, which is that you may not use more force than in necessary to defend your property.
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