Written by attorney Shane Lee Jimison

When Can I Use Deadly Force in Virginia?

If you were watching the local news this past weekend you no doubt came across the story of an elderly woman assaulted in her own home before her grandson could shoot the attacker. These stories always raise the question: When can you use deadly force in Virginia and not get sent to prison?

In defense of personal property is a no-no. If someone is stealing your car in your driveway you can't shoot at him. Sorry, but the law says your sweet ride isn't worth someone's life no mater how many Vanilla Ice CDs you left in the console.

In self-defense: a person may use e deadly force in self-defense only if confronted with deadly force. Warning: this is a GROSS simplification.

In defense of home: The General Assembly keeps rejecting the so-called "Castle" bill which would provide civil immunity for those who blow away a home invader. Criminally, it's a little bit different analysis. One can assume that someone invading your home is doing so to do you no harm and deadly force can be used inside the home if the circumstances are right. However, if the first shot subdues the person you would be well suited not to fire again. The adage of using only enough force to defend yourself must be in proportion to the threat imposed does not disappear at your front door's threshold.

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