When Can You Claim Self-Defense in Tennessee? There are unfortunate times in your life when you need to defend yourself or your family. However, self-defense claims are not as easy to prove as you may think.

Authorities and the court can use your claim of self-defense against you by saying you admit to harming another individual. They will quickly be able to shift the blame on you, leaving you to face steep penalties in Tennessee Court. If a deadly weapon were involved, the stakes would be much higher. Do not leave your fate to the court. Get a firm that will fight for you. The Franklin criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian H Altshuler & Associates are standing by to help you through this difficult time.

How does self-defense work in Tennessee?

There are several factors in a self-defense claim. This defense is commonly used in assault cases: if someone takes a swing at you and you punch back, you may claim it was in self-defense. However, there are only certain occasions where you’re allowed to protect yourself:

  • There was a real threat
  • You are not engaging in illegal activities
  • Any reasonable person would have also previewed the danger of imminent harm
  • You are legally allowed to be at the location of the incident

There must also be evidence that you were defending yourself. You cannot claim self-defense when it is not warranted. Immediately following an assault, you need to contact a Franklin criminal defense attorney.

When self-defense does not work

Some situations do not warrant self-defense claims. If you are violent against a police officer trying to arrest you, you cannot claim self-defense. If you initiate the conflict, you cannot claim self-defense. You are also unable to use self-defense when you are a trespasser on another person’s property.

Does Tennessee have a “stand your ground” law?

Some states have “stand your ground” laws that directly address self-defense. Tennessee does not use this exact language in any codes, but it does allow individuals to defend themselves against perceived or actual threats in public without retreating. If the threatening party uses deadly force against a Tennessee resident, then the person can use deadly force to defend themselves. The duty to retreat concept does not apply in Tennessee. Under TN Code § 39-11-611, three elements must be present to overthrow the duty to retreat:

  • The person has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
  • The danger creating the belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury is real, or honestly believed to be real at the time; and
  • The belief of danger is founded upon reasonable grounds.

Many individuals believe that you can use deadly force whenever you think you are in danger. That is not always the case. The laws says:

Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury within a residence, business, dwelling or vehicle is presumed to have held a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury to self, family, a member of the household or a person visiting as an invited guest, when that force is used against another person, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence, business, dwelling or vehicle, and the person using defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

For a solid defense to stand, the individual must prove that they were in trouble and did not make the first aggressive move. Moreover, you may have a harder time proving self defense if the threat against you is deemed lesser than the force you applied For example, if a person is on your front lawn yelling at you and you use a firearm to stop him, the chances are good your claim to self defense may fail. A Franklin criminal defense attorney can further explain these legal intricacies.

What is the Castle Doctrine?

Stand your ground laws are not the only laws that apply to self-defense. The Castle Doctrine refers to defending personal property such as your vehicle, residence, or dwelling, as well as a place of business. The Castle Doctrine only applies to intruders of your property, such as a burglar or trespasser. Even so, there may be exceptions based on your exact circumstances. This is one reason it is important to speak with a Franklin criminal defense attorney if you caused someone harm, even if that person was intending to do you harm first.

Deadly force and self-defense

While you are well within your rights to use deadly force to defend yourself, you should first employ other tactics. If you can get away entirely, do so; it is better not to resort to violence when you can. If you are being attacked and can fight your attacker off, or use non-deadly deterrents like pepper spray or a taser, you should. If you have the option to call the police, then you definitely should.   If none of these are options, then yes, you may need to use deadly force when you fear for your life..

Do I need a Franklin criminal defense attorney for self-defense?

Legally no, but realistically yes. You will need a Franklin criminal defense attorney when you have defended yourself against a threat. There are differences between using force and deadly force. These differences can play a critical role in the penalties you can face. We understand that you were only defending yourself, but the prosecution can paint a completely different picture about what happened.

Do not make any statements of self-defense to the police even if you know you were in the right. The police will see your claim of self-defense as an admission of guilt. You can be seen as the aggressor and face serious criminal charges. You can face a charge of assault, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, or homicide.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to speak with a Franklin criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates. We will make sure you are rightfully defended in court and will work to protect your family and your future. Call our office at 615-977-9370, or complete a contact form to schedule an initial consultation today. We have offices in Brentwood, Franklin, and Columbia.