WHEN DEADLY FORCE IS LEGAL.
“Direct threats require decisive action.” Former two term Vice-President, Secretary of Defense,
and longtime patriot, Richard Cheney.
First, I want to be crystal clear that I cannot responsibly provide broad legal advice regarding in
this column. However, the subject matter herein should be known by our citizens. To fully
understand when it is legal to use deadly force in Georgia, consult with a criminal defense
attorney regarding the specific facts of your situation.
Always consider any type of force the last alternative when being confronted by an aggressor.
But, always be prepared to protect yourself and your family.
If that last resort becomes necessary, below you will find a summary governing the use of deadly
force in the Peach State. (For the purposes of this column, we will use a firearm as an example).
CASTLE DOCTRINE – This is the bedrock principle of self-defense in America. If someone
breaks or is breaking into your home, you can shoot them, legally, if you “reasonably” believe
such force is required to stop the “unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation.”
But the law has three important provisions:
1. The intrusion is “violent and tumultuous” and the resident believes its purpose is “assaulting
or offering personal violence” to someone inside;
2. The intruder is not a member of the family or household (who may have lost his key or is
returning late); and
3. The resident believes the intruder broke in to commit a felony and deadly force is required to
STAND YOUR GROUND – Outside a home, killing to defend yourself or others gets more
In Georgia, you must “reasonably” believe deadly force is “necessary to prevent death or great
bodily injury” to you or someone else, or it’s the only way to stop “a forcible felony.” Armed
robbery is a forcible felony. Theft by shoplifting is not.
For over a decade, Georgia has provided that a person who uses threats or force relating to the
use of force in defense of self or others has no duty to retreat or run away and has a right to stand
his or her ground and use force. However, that person must be reasonably in fear of death or
serious bodily harm when using such force. When words like “reasonable” are used in criminal
statutes, great care must be used.
Also, keep in mind that “stand your ground” means just that. It does not mean you’re justified in
pursuing someone who’s no longer a threat. You cannot shoot someone who has disengaged and
is running away.
Additionally, violence is justified only in stopping or preventing other violence; not property
For instance, this summer in Carrollton, thieves took countless items on the properties of our
citizens, including me. Thanks to the hard work of the Carrollton Police Department and the
community, the thieves were apprehended. But, if I was in my yard when one of them was
rummaging through my car stealing everything in it, I could not walk over to him and shoot him.
SELF DEFENSE – The self-defense law has exceptions even when you personally feel
threatened. You are not justified in using deadly force if:
1. You’re the instigator. You can’t provoke someone to attack you with the intent of using
deadly force in response;
2. You’re the one committing the felony. If someone’s using force to stop you from committing
a crime, you legally cannot assault them and claim self-defense; and
3. You are fighting by agreement. Like the first exception, you can’t start a fistfight and then
fatally stab your unarmed combatant to stop it, unless you withdraw, and your opponent
continues to use or threaten to use unlawful force. (Think of bar fights).
When killing a man, the best-case scenario is that you lawfully protected yourself or another
from a violent attack. However, not all legal gun owners just walk back inside the home.
Instead, some are charged with murder.
Fortunately, there are organizations, like the United States Concealed Carry Association
(USCCA) that provide an attorney strike force to protect law abiding citizens who are accused of
unlawful shootings. I am honored to serve as part of this team in Georgia.
For more information regarding USCCA, go to www.usconcealedcarry.com.
Know the law. Exercise restraint. Protect your family. Teach others to do the same.