Under Georgia law; if a person has a “reasonable belief that it is necessary to defend themselves, or a third person (spouse, child, friend) against imminent use of force” self defense is allowed. The law contemplates that the combatants are engaged in mutual combat, so you cannot use self defense if you provoked the incident, or were the aggressor.
Use of deadly force ? This issue generally arises as a defense to murder, manslaughter, or other serious criminal charges. Although the law in Georgia allows a person to “ stand your ground” when attacked please consider that if you are able to escape, walk, run , or jump in your car , as a practical matter you should always consider leaving before any serious fighting beings.
Many people who carry weapons have a strategy for using their weapon. They are ready to react when the need arises. If you carry a weapon, you should be trained in using it, and have a well thought out strategy to defend yourself.
At the same time it is also very important to have a strategy to avoid dangerous places such as Adult clubs at night are known for patrons who carry and use weapons, dark alleys, and isolated areas where few people are around. To keep yourself safe avoid dangerous settings, and before trouble starts walk out the door. In most fights there are escalating cues: fighting words lead to pushing, pushing leads to fist fights, and then weapons are drawn. Be prepared for those events, and leave before the fight starts.
A person may use deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that force is necessary to “prevent great bodily harm, or a forcible felony” (rape, aggravated assault). In the setting of a bar at night, or in a dark parking lot if you are approached by a perpetrator with a weapon, and are threatened the use of force would be a defense. But, if there is a fight, and the perpetrator runs off, you cannot shoot at them as they flee. You are no longer using deadly force to prevent an injury. There is no Rambo defense for shooting a fleeing felon.
In defense of a habitation (home, business, car) when there is a violent entry, and you have a reasonable belief that “deadly force is necessary to prevent a physical assault”, the force is justified. There are unfortunate incidents reported in the news where a lost or intoxicated person went to the wrong house, or apartment, and was shot while attempting entry. In protecting your home it is a good idea to have exterior lights that are motion activated, as well as getting window locks, and a good deadbolt lock on the exterior doors. Have a game plan; turn on the light, have 911 in your cell phone, yell out “I have a gun”, and stand away from the door. Sometimes the threat of force can be effective deterrent.
I hope that you are able to avoid dangerous situations, and that you have a strategy to avoid dangerous places. Keep yourself safe at home by installing good exterior lights and deadbolt locks. Read your local newspaper and be aware of the malls and locations where assaults regularly occur. For more information on premise liability for victims of a crime while on commercial establishment see www.robbinslaw.com.
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