What is lawful defense? And when can I use force?
If you catch a burglar or are attacked, you may defend yourself in certain cases. That sounds logical, but the rules surrounding legal self-defense are strictly regulated. For example, the jeweler who shot and killed a robber while fleeing could not rely on the legal defense.
Our criminal code contains two cases of legal defense: justified manslaughter and justified assault and battery. When someone attacks you, you can use force yourself to stop the attacker. But there are two important conditions attached to this:
- The attack must busy or threatening are: if someone attacks you and then immediately walks away, you should not run after that person and give them a taste of their own medicine, no matter how tempting that may sound. “The fist should hang in the air,” it is sometimes said.
- The violence you use to defend yourself is necessary proportional are. To put it bluntly: if someone pushes you, you are not allowed to shoot that person.
Our criminal code does provide for two special cases: burglary at night and theft with violence. In those two cases we assume that the burglar/thief had malicious intentions anyway. If you, as a victim, have used violence to defend yourself, you will no longer have to prove that that violence was necessary. Unless it turns out that the burglary at night showed that you as a victim really had nothing to fear for your own safety, think again about shooting a burglar who is running away.