Self-defense laws typically fall under one of two legal philosophies: “Stand Your Ground” or “the Castle Doctrine.” The “Stand Your Ground” principle basically states that one can defend themselves (or others) in any scenario in which they fear the imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. “The Castle Doctrine” employs a similar belief, yet it typically limits the right to react with force to defending one’s home, vehicle or place of business. 

Per the National Conference of State Legislatures, Georgia follows the “Stand Your Ground” philosophy. Yet to successfully argue a claim of self-defense, one should know the details of the state’s law. 

Lawfully reacting with force 

Section 16-3-21 of Georgia’s Crimes and Offenses Code states that one can use force (even deadly force) in defense of themselves or others when reasonable belief exists that such force is necessary to prevent suffering a serious injury or being the victim of a forcible felony. 

The law goes on to detail the specific case of where one might use deadly force against an alleged abuser. To answer a charge of murder or manslaughter, one must show evidence of abuse on the part of the deceased and present expert testimony relevant to their state of mind as a victim of child abuse or family violence. 

Exceptions to the state’s self-defense laws 

There are exceptions to Georgia’s self-defense laws. They include: 

  • Scenarios where one was the initial aggressor in a confrontation 
  • Scenarios where one reacted with force while committing an unrelated crime 
  • Scenarios where one was a participant in combat by agreement (and did not indicate an intention to withdraw) 

In any of the aforementioned scenarios, one could open leave themselves open to criminal accusations and potential civil liability. 

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