Self-defense burden of proof?

Some states make the victim prove that their actions were self-defense, while some states make the prosecutors prove that it wasn’t self-defense. Ohio put’s it on the prosecutors as mentioned in this article:

A new state law recently kicked in that put the burden on prosecutors to prove that deadly force wasn’t warranted.

Do you know what the law is in your state?

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Illinois is pretty vague. The best I can tell, it’s up to the defendant to provide some proof that they, or another person was in imminent danger of a forcible felony, like rape, murder, abduction, etc.

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Is there a list by state?


Texas fortunately has very self defense friendly laws. It’s not quite as user friendly as FL but here in Texas the presumption in a self defense case is that you were justified unless the evidence shows otherwise.

In Fl if the initial investigation supports you clalim of SD you can’t even be arrested which to me is by far the most reasonable approach.

Why should a perfectly innocent person who only acted in lawful defense of themselves or others have their lives ruined, potentially lose everything just paying lawyers to prove they didn’t commit a crime?

I get that the justification that people in other states feel user friendly self defense laws like SYG and Castile doctrine takes us back to the Old West with people dropping all over the place under the guise of self defense but in reality that has never proven to be true.

Responsible law abiding gun owners very rarely try to push the law to it’s limits to get away with a murder under the guise of self defense due to some loophole in the law.

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I have found this to be a great site for use of force examples and explanations.

(The current blog posts are no charge, but for older material, there are some charges.)

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Did I read this correctly? An armed robber shot and killed his victim and the armed robber says it was self defense?

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@Richard4 I think if you read the details, he says he was not there to rob, but as a drug dealer there to pay his distributor (boss) for drugs he’d sold. And then his boss got mad because the boss thought he was skimming and drew on him, so he defended himself.
The prosecution is the one saying he went there to rob his boss… I dont think anyone else contends that. Except maybe the bosses girlfriend but it sounds like evidence doesn’t support her claim.

If what the article indicates is true, it sounds like the prosecution is the one spinning it into something upside down from reality just to make a case.

Messy, though, because EVERYone involved is on the wrong side of the law, dealing or distributing drugs.

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LOL! Shocking what people will claim, isn’t it @Richard4? Unfortunately, that happens too often as does the attacker suing for injuries/damages they received while in the commission of a crime. I know a bunch of states have made that illegal! :slight_smile:


They can always attempt to make that claim but if you are committing a crime there is no state in which your claim of self defense will be upheld.

A claim of self defense is predicated first and foremost on you being lawfully present and acting in a lawful manner when someone unreasonably used or threatened deadly force against yourself or a third party.

There are some exceptions depending on the state.

IF you are in a fight by mutual consent or even if you initiate it you have no lawful use of force unless you first attempt to quit the confrontation and are prevented from doing so.

If in such a scenario you can demonstrate you had a very real threat of imminent grave bodily harm or death you would then again reattain your self defense rights.

It can be even more complicated in some states because of laws that require you to use equal force. If you are getting beaten and use a firearm even though you were lawfully present and acting lawfully, in some states you may well face felony charges of aggravated assault of manslaughter should you kill the offender.

I know we get tired of hearing it but know the laws of your state, and any state you are going to be traveling through because they are different from state to state and in some cases they are very different remembering that “ignorance of the law is no defense”.


It can be more ridiculous on the civil end of things.

Back in the early 70’s there was a case in Lubbock where a burlar who was cut entering the business through a window he broke successfully sued for damages because the owner didn’t have safety glass and they convinced the jury that the business constituted a temptation he could not resist.

Fortunately most of the state has developed a much higher level of sanity since.

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While I’m very pro Law and Order it is a fact there are prosecutors and cops out there that will try to twist the facts or totally misrepresent them in order to convict someone. Usually it’s done when they have a perp they know is a bad case with multiple serious crimes under their belt but have been slick enough to get away with them or had a good enough lawyer to get their cases dismissed on technicalities or dropped to minor misdemeanors.

A rational person is not paranoid but at the same time a rational person should always have a healthy distrust of people in positions of power.

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@wildrose Let’s just say I’m more cynical than most on this front because we’ve been on the wrong side of bad behavior by both LEO and prosecutors under the color of authority. It’s not a story for discussion here, but it absolutely changed the way I see the world. I’ve got friends in LEO, and now that we live in MO we’ve had some very decent interactions with the local constabulary but I will never take prosecution motives at face value without inspection again.
I get that the prosecutor in this case probably thinks he can clear out a bad guy by convicting him on some offence in liew of other offences he wasn’t convicted on. I get why that’s tempting, but it’s wrong, illegal, immoral, and prosecutorial misconduct. Been there, done that, and am not amused.
I’m no fan of letting bad guys off on technicalities but the system has rules and if they aren’t honored, it’s only about who wields the most power. And that leads to very unhappy results for all of us.


No more cynical than I. I always look at the evidence and play the “ring of truth” game when evaluating testimony/claims made by either side.

Over the last 15 ;years I’ve reviewed literally thousands of LEO and civilian shootings and in not one case where I’ve said which way it would eventually be ruled or play out in court have I been wrong.

Where drug dealers are concerned I have no mercy at all and under the law in this case I see no way he isn’t convicted if the jury follows the law.

All self defense claims are dependent on us being lawfully present and acting in a lawful manner. As this case reads either he was there to make a drug deal, or there to rip off his boss. Any use of a firearm in connection with either is a felony and so it would require one of those extreme exceptions I mentioned above for it to be found that he even could have acted in lawful self defense.

I’m not familiar with the case and have no idea of the makeup of the jury but I don’t see it ending well for the guy.

I can certainly see the prosecutor trying to twist it into a drug deal gone bad/attempted robbery to make his case but in truth that shouldn’t be necessary. It may be a case where the prosecutor is swinging for the fences and throwing out everything he can in order to get anything to stick as that’s a common tactic, albeit one I frown upon.

The demographics of the jury could easily outweigh the law but again, I haven’t’ looked at it.


This is a great conversation and thank you for your insight. I haven’t done the research to determine exactly what happened all I can say is that 1. If shooter was a felon, he shouldn’t have a gun. 2. If they were engaged in felonious activity neither should have had a gun. These types of scenarios weaken true self defense situations.

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If you’re a criminal who’s looking at life for murder you’ll try anything to get off.

That in no way diminishes lawful self defense and we need to be firm in pointing out the difference.

Those who wish to take away our self defense rights are no different than the criminals mentioned in the first paragraph, they’ll use anything they can to accomplish that end.


Just seems out of wack to me. It’s like a decision tree. Felon, gun = jail. Etc. There should be priorities when deciding someone’s sentence.

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It does indeed. Keep in mind that the felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm would be a completely separate count and he could face both state and federal charges on it although it’s rare for the federal case to be pursued unless there are other federal charges related to the crime.

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Prosecution has to bear the burden of proof

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@MilVet I agree, that is how it always should be. However in Missouri, if you restrain someone, under the self-defense laws the burden of proof switches to you to prove it was necessary and that you did not restrain them in some way or for a duration that exceeded the reasonable need.

Not a lawyer here, but I read that to mean that if I restrain them for, say, 10 hours before calling the cops, or by tying them in a way that causes permanent nerve damage, I’d better be able to prove why that was necessary.

No in many case by claiming self defense you have already admitted to the crime and SD is only a mitigating factor. The burden of proof then is on the defense to prove you were acting in lawful self defense rather than on the prosecution to prove that you were not.

One really needs to understand the self defense laws where you live and in any jurisdiction you plan to carry in because they can be substantially different as can be the burden of proof.

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