Self-Defense and Reasonable Force in Wyoming
In Wyoming, self-defense is legally defined as “reasonable defensive force that is necessary to prevent injury or loss.” According to this standard, there are times when a defendant can use self-defense to avoid prosecution in cases of assault or battery, but this defense is strictly limited, and defendants should not think of self-defense as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card.
Self-Defense in Cases of Assault and Battery
According to Wyoming law, simple assault is a misdemeanor that is defined as “the unlawful attempt to cause bodily injury to another person.” Even if the other person in not injured, engaging in actions that may cause injury is enough to get a person convicted of assault.
Simple battery is a misdemeanor that is defined as using bodily force to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another person.” If a defendant chooses to use a self-defense strategy to avoid charges of simple assault or simple battery, the burden of proof is on the defendant to demonstrate that they had an honest belief that danger existed when they committed an act of violence. The defendant will also have to prove that they were not the initial aggressor. In other words, you can’t start a fight and then say you acted in self-defense.
Self-Defense in Cases of Aggravated Assault
Using self-defense to avoid charges of aggravated assault and battery is very difficult. Aggravated assault is a felony defined as “knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, or threatening to injure another person using a dangerous weapon.” A person can also be convicted of aggravated assault in Wyoming for causing bodily harm to a woman they know is pregnant.
To successfully argue self-defense when charged with aggravated assault, the burden of proof would be on the defendant to prove that their actions were reasonable and necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. They would also have to clearly demonstrate that the other person acted first. If two people are engaged in a fistfight and one of them pulls out a weapon and uses it the other, that can be seen as an escalation of violence rather than a legitimate case of self-defense.
The Use of Deadly Force and Wyoming’s “No Duty to Retreat” Law
It is commonly believed that Wyoming’s “no duty to retreat” law gives people the right to use deadly force whenever they are involved in an altercation. This simply isn’t the case. The use of deadly force, whether actual or threatened, is only justifiable as a criminal defense when the person who uses it can it prove that they had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent violent actions that could have resulted in imminent death or bodily injury.
Another common belief is that deadly force is automatically justified when used against someone who forcibly enters your home without permission. While people certainly have the right to defend themselves against an intruder who invades their home, a person who uses deadly force will still have to prove that they had reasonable cause to believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent the intruder from hurting someone or physically removing someone from the premises.
There are additional restrictions on the use of deadly force in your home: for example, if the intruder was the legal guardian of the person they were attempting to remove from the premises then deadly force would not be justified. Also, deadly force is not justified against someone who has the lawful right to be on the property, such as an owner, renter, or titleholder, unless there is a court order restricting that person from being on the premises. Finally, deadly force is not justified when it’s used against a law enforcement officer who is performing their official duties.
People in Wyoming also have the right to use deadly force in a public place when they believe it is necessary to prevent violent actions that could result in imminent death or bodily injury to themselves or another person. In these cases, however, it is highly advisable to do everything you can to avoid escalating the situation.
Looking for a Skilled and Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney?
Even cases of self-defense or reasonable force that may seem clear-cut in the moment can present complicated legal dilemmas. For a nuanced defense, you need a skilled lawyer. Defense attorney Steven Titus of Titus & Associates, P.C. in Gillette, Wyoming has extensive experience advocating for clients in criminal proceedings. If you are facing criminal charges, call (307) 257-7800 today to arrange a FREE case strategy session. We’re available to take your call 24 hours a day.
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