• Self-Defense, Use of Force and Deadly Force

    In the state of Minnesota, statute 609.06 authorizes a private citizen the right to use reasonable force toward another without the other’s consent, to resist or aid another in resisting an offense against the person or in resisting a trespass. So what is considered to be reasonable force?

    Reasonable force can best be described as the level of force proportionate to the level of unlawful force about to be utilized against the victim. If someone were to push or slap you, you would most likely not be justified in using a baseball bat or gun as a means of protecting yourself. This level of force (bat or gun) would be considered unreasonable and excessive under the law when compared to a push or a slap in the face. Using excessive force to defend yourself could result in criminal charges leading to your imprisonment and/or the payment of large fines. The line between reasonable force and excessive force is very thin where no buffer zone exists. In addition to using reasonable force, you must be a reluctant participant in the altercation and have attempted to withdraw or retreat (if safe to do so), otherwise, your involvement may be considered to be willing mutual combat (brawling/fighting) and subsequently you may erode any legal protection afforded you under the law.

    Minnesota statute 609.065 specifically covers the justifiable taking of human life. The statute specifically states:
    "The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor's place of abode."
    Statute 609.065 is slightly more complicated than it appears so let us pick-apart 609.065 and examine what probably is not obvious in the statute.

    Outside of your place of abode, you may only use deadly force in self-defense if you believe the threat of death or great bodily harm exists to you or another and you or the person you are protecting are innocent and reluctant participants in the deadly threat encounter.

    Essentially, you cannot provoke someone, shoot them and claim self-defense (you were part of the problem). Additionally, if you rob a bank and are confronted by someone with a gun and you shoot them, you cannot claim self-defense because you are not innocent (you committed a crime by robbing a bank and forfeit your right to self-defense).

    Minnesota statute defines “great bodily harm” as:
    “…bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.” (609.02)
    To help illustrate just how severe great bodily harm is, broken bones (fractures) do not even qualify or meet the requirement of great bodily harm (see “substantial bodily harm” MN 609.02).

    Statute 609.065 also states,
    “…the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death... “.
    The term “reasonably”, alone in the statute is somewhat subjective; however, there is a test that will help us identify what is “reasonable” in a more objective light. This test is also fairly universal and widely adopted (not Minnesota specific). The test for when the use of deadly force is authorized is often referred to as the AOJ-P Analysis.

    AOJ-P is short for Ability, Opportunity, Jeopardy and Preclusion. If a threat passes these criterions, the use of deadly force is generally authorized.