Self-Defense in Arizona

Arizona justification for self-defense is found in Title 13, chapter 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.

The claim of Self Defense as a justification in Arizona is only available if you meet the following requirements. There are more requirements if Deadly Physical Force is to be used, but we will cover Deadly Physical Force in another post.

In general, it’s recommended that we follow these simple rules:

  1. Don’t use force in response to verbal provocation alone. Don’t escalate the situation to the point of needing force.
  2. Don’t instigate the fight! Lay down your pride and ego, don’t go looking to pick a fight.
  3. Don’t use more force than is needed to stop the threat!

Let’s dive into the laws that lay out these rules.

“13-404. Justification; self-defense
A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, a person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.
B. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified:
1. In response to verbal provocation alone; or
2. To resist an arrest that the person knows or should know is being made by a peace officer or by a person acting in a peace officer’s presence and at his direction, whether the arrest is lawful or unlawful, unless the physical force used by the peace officer exceeds that allowed by law; or
3. If the person provoked the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, unless:
(a) The person withdraws from the encounter or clearly communicates to the other his intent to do so reasonably believing he cannot safely withdraw from the encounter; and
(b) The other nevertheless continues or attempts to use unlawful physical force against the person.”    

(ARS 13-404, emphasis added)

Again, we are just talking about Physical Force in this post, this would include using your hands, feet, pushing, punching, taser, pepper spray, etc. As long as the force that is used is not used with the purpose of causing death or serious physical injury. (ARS 13-105(14))

I took the liberty to emphasize the “Reasonable Person” element in the statute. This is important and cannot be overlooked. Who decides if your actions are those of a reasonable person or not? The jury makes that decision, based upon the facts of the case as presented in court. The jury gets to weigh the evidence against not only the law, but their moral compass, and the jury instructions they are given to guide their decision-making process. This is where our rule number three comes from. Specifically, from the Jury Instructions for AZ, which states, “The defendant used or threatened no more physical force than would have appeared necessary to a reasonable person in the situation.” (AZ RAJI 4th 4.04)

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*This is provided as a Legal Information Resource and should not be treated as legal advice.