It is not uncommon for people to get into physical fights. However, there are millions of Americans who are victims of violent crimes every year. While Arizona law does allow individuals to protect themselves with physical force, it is important for people to be aware of the legal limits on self-defense.
Know When to Stop. Although it differs from state to state, generally, people are permitted to use reasonable physical force to protect themselves from immediate danger. It is okay for you to fight back if someone is physically hitting you. However, if they stop fighting, you cannot continue hitting them; this would be considered an unreasonable use of force.
Criminal Charges. If you use self-defense when it is not justified by law, you could have criminal charges filed against you, even if you didn’t start the fight.
Civil Liability. If you use unreasonable force in defending yourself, or if you weren’t justified in using force at all, the other person may file a civil lawsuit against you and you may be forced to pay them restitution.
Castle Laws. These laws can greatly differ from each state, and some states do not have them. These laws allow you to use deadly force if you are in your own home and an intruder threatens to injure or kill you. You are using this force to “protect your castle." While Arizona does not have a “castle law," there are statutes in place which permit an individual to use physical force if an intruder is in their home.
Deadly Force. You are not permitted to use deadly force unless you’re in reasonable fear of immediate serious physical injury or death. If you can get out of the situation safely, you should. Deadly force should only be used as the last resort.
Defense of Others. Just like when you protect yourself, you can protect someone else if you have a reasonable fear that the other person is in instant danger.
Below are two Arizona laws which describe the legal justification of self-defense in AZ:
A.R.S. 13-404 justifies the use of physical force against another person when a reasonable person would believe physical force is necessary to protect themself against the other person’s use of physical force.
A.R.S. 13-405 speaks towards the justification of using deadly force against another person. Deadly physical force is justified if it is used as defined in A.R.S. 13-404, or when a reasonable person would believe deadly physical force is necessary to protect themself against the other person’s unlawful deadly physical force.
In Arizona, it is crucial to remember that whether or not the use of physical force or deadly physical force was justified in a specific case will be determined by the jury on trial. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using deadly physical force against an intruder unless you believe that you or your family is in immediate danger. Aside from criminal charges, the family of a victim of self-defense may seek restitution in a civil trial.