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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

3 situations that can affect self-defense claims in Missouri

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Criminal Law |

There are numerous defense strategies available to those accused of violent crime in Missouri. Some people can provide an alibi to establish that they were not the person involved in an incident. Others might raise an affirmative defense by claiming that they acted in self-defense in an attempt to protect themselves or another person.

Missouri acknowledges the castle doctrine, which means that people have a right to defend their homes against unlawful invasion or an attempted intrusion by someone with malicious intent. The state also has a stand-your-ground law permitting people to use physical force to protect themselves without first retreating from a dangerous situation.

Despite those robust protections, there are still limits on self-defense claims. For example, the three scenarios below might not be eligible for a self-defense strategy when someone faces assault or homicide charges.

Felonious activity

The right to self-defense largely relies on legally appropriate behavior. Individuals who engage in criminal activity could very well face violent pushback when they rob someone or otherwise violate criminal statutes. If someone attempts to defend themselves from the actions of others after committing or attempting to commit a felony offense, their criminal conduct might prevent them from raising a claim of self-defense in court.

Instigating a conflict

If one person verbally threatens another or initiates physical conduct, they could very well face a violent reaction from that other party. Someone afraid for their safety has a right to defend themselves. One person who intentionally puts someone else in fear for their safety through their words or who is the first party to engage in physical violence typically cannot claim that they acted in self-defense if they harm someone else in a situation that they instigated.

Ignoring attempts to retreat

Even in a situation where another party poses a clear threat, using force may not be appropriate. If a potential assailant realizes that someone is physically strong or armed, they may verbally state that they intend to leave or turn around to flee. It is not appropriate under Missouri law to use physical force on someone who has expressed their intent to withdraw from the encounter, especially if they are already attempting to leave a hostile situation. A person who shoots someone else in the back, for example, might have a hard time claiming that they acted in self-defense because the other person was trying to leave the situation.

Those responding to accusations of violent crimes with a claim of self-defense need to have a working understanding of the limits Missouri imposes on such claims. Reviewing state law and the circumstances that have led to an arrest with a skilled legal team can help people plan the best defense strategy possible.