Arizona Stand Your Ground and Self Defense Laws

Imagine you’re walking to your car at night. Suddenly a masked person carrying a baseball bat rounds the corner and demands your valuables. You could run or shout for help. Instead, you draw your gun and fight back. Shots are fired and the assailant lies on the ground dead. Can you be charged with a homicide or do you have the right to stand your ground?

Chances are if this occurred in Arizona, your actions would be covered by the state’s stand your ground law. Arizona is one of more than 20 states that has a “Stand Your Ground” law.

Overview of Arizona’s Stand Your Ground Law

With Arizona’s “Stand Your Ground” law, there is generally no longer a duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force if you are in a place where your legally permitted to be and you are not engaged in an unlawful act. The following chart provides a general overview of Arizona’s stand your ground law:

Statute

Statutory Definition

A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other's commission of…a serious crime listed in subsection (A).

Enumerated Crimes

Deadly force is “justified” to stop the commission of these crimes:

  • Arson of an occupied structure (A.R.S. § 13-1704)
  • Burglary in the second or first degree (A.R.S. § 13-1507, § 13-1508)
  • Kidnapping (A.R.S. § 13-1304)
  • Manslaughter (A.R.S. § 13-1103)
  • 1st or 2nd degree murder (A.R.S. § 13-1104, § 13-1105)
  • Sexual assault (A.R.S. § 13-1406)
  • Child molestation (A.R.S. § 13-1410.A)
  • Armed robbery (A.R.S. § 13-1904)
  • Aggravated assault (A.R.S. § 13-1204)

Prohibited Actions

This statute does not justify the use of physical force in the following situations:

  • Confronted with Verbal Provocation Only
  • Resisting Arrest by Law Enforcement
  • You Are the Initial Aggressor
  • The Threat is Immediate

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. It’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own research or consulting with a qualified Arizona criminal defense attorney.

Understanding Arizona’s Law

A justification is a lawful reason for a person’s acts or omissions, excusing conduct that may otherwise be illegal. In Arizona, the last states that if the accused presents a justification defense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act with justification.

The justification for use of force, commonly known as Arizona’s Stand Your Ground law, is a crime prevention statute. This law declares a person justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another, if the person reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary to prevent the commission of certain serious crimes. (See chart for more details.)

When the Defense Does Not Apply

Although Arizona permits you to “stand your ground” when threatened with unlawful physical force, there are limits to the law. The use of deadly force is not justified in these situations:

  • In response to verbal threats only
  • Resisting arrest from a law enforcement officer
  • An innocent third person is killed or injured by your reckless actions.
  • You provoke the other person’s use of force, unless:
  1. You withdrew and clearly communicated your intent to withdraw, AND
  2. The other person continued to use unlawful physical force.

The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act with justification. If the State fails to carry this burden, then the accused must be found not guilty of the charge.

Research the Law

Related Resources

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