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Charged with Assault or Murder in Arizona? Understanding Your Self-Defense Legal Options


In Arizona's legal system, 'justification defenses' are crucial for understanding when actions typically seen as criminal are legally permissible under specific circumstances. This article explores three vital defenses: self-defense, defense of others, and crime prevention, each illustrated through engaging scenarios.

Self-Defense in Arizona

According to Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-404: "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."

Imagine you are walking through a secluded area and you are confronted by someone with a weapon threatening your safety. Using necessary force to neutralize this threat falls within Arizona's self-defense law. However, engaging in physical retaliation to verbal insults in a social setting doesn't meet the criteria for self-defense. Proportionality and the imminence of the threat are key.

Defense of Others

Per Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-405: "A person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another to protect a third person if... [they] reasonably believe... that their intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person."

Consider you see an aggressive confrontation between two people in a public space. You watch the confrontation and suddenly one of the people pulls out a knife. You would be justified in intervening to protect the other person from physical harm, but only in using the force necessary to neutralize the threat the other person with the knife poses. However, physically intervening in a non-violent verbal argument may not be justifiable under this defense.

Crime Prevention

As stated in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-411: "A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if... they reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to prevent... arson, burglary, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, sexual conduct with a minor, sexual assault, child molestation, armed robbery, or aggravated assault." Notice that when it comes to the defense of crime prevention, the threat to the person claiming the defense is not a consideration. There need not be any danger of harm to the person asserting the defense of crime prevention for the defense to apply.

An illustrative example would be a situation where you confront an intruder at your neighbor's house using force to prevent a possible burglary or harm. Crime prevention is potentially much broader than self-defense or defense of others because a person can lawfully assert the crime prevention defense in a situation where they used lethal force even if there was no lethal threat, so long as the person reasonably believed that the lethal force they employed was immediately necessary to prevent the applicable crime.

However, it is important to recognize that the crime prevention justification only applies to prevent specifically enumerated crimes, and therefore, resorting to physical force for a non-violent offense, such as minor theft for example, does not typically align with justified crime prevention.

No Duty to Retreat in Arizona

Arizona law does not require individuals to retreat before using justified force in a situation. What this means is that even if a person could retreat rather than use force, they may still legally opt to use force rather than retreat. Under Arizona law asking the person if they could have run away is not only unnecessary but a legally irrelevant question in determining whether or not a person's use of force was justified. However, this does not allow for aggressive responses in non-threatening circumstances.

Comparison and Contrasts

While self-defense, defense of others, and crime prevention all permit the use of force under Arizona law, they each have distinct parameters and applications.

- Self-Defense: This defense is personal; it's about protecting oneself from immediate and unlawful physical threat. The key element is the perception of imminent danger to oneself, requiring a reasonable and proportionate response.

- Defense of Others: Extends the principles of self-defense to protecting third parties. It involves assessing a situation you may not be directly involved in, requiring a reasonable belief that another person is in immediate danger. Proportionality is still crucial.

- Crime Prevention: This is broader, allowing for force to prevent certain serious crimes. It is not just about responding to a threat, but actively preventing a crime from occurring, which demands a correct identification of situations warranting intervention.

In all these defenses, the concepts of 'reasonableness' and 'necessity' are crucial. Misjudging these can lead to significant legal consequences.

Legal Consequences and Considerations

Improper use of these defenses can have significant legal implications. Understanding each situation's specific details is crucial.


Understanding the nuances of self-defense, defense of others, and crime prevention under Arizona law is critical, especially after an incident involving force. If you've used force in a situation and now face criminal charges, it's essential to have an experienced defense attorney who can effectively assert these justifications in your case. Our firm has extensive experience in navigating these complex legal scenarios, aiming to reach favorable resolutions based on Arizona's justification laws. We provide expert guidance and robust representation, ensuring your actions are evaluated fairly under the law. Contact us to discuss your case and protect your rights.

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