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New York Self-Defense Laws 2024 Explained

New York Self-Defense Laws 2024 Explained

American residents and citizens have a reasonable expectation that they can legally act in self-defense, even in situations that result in the attacker being harmed or killed. Around one-third of Americans say they own a gun, so firearm use is one common form of defense in this country. Even when someone obeys state laws when engaging in self-defense, there can be a need to hire a New York self-defense attorney.

The Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, has helped many clients navigate New York’s self-defense laws. If you were recently attacked and had to defend yourself or someone you love, you can trust our team of attorneys to protect your rights and to work to ensure that you are not criminally charged or sued.

New York Self Defense Laws

Is Self-Defense a Justification for Physical or Deadly Force?

In many cases, self-defense can justify the use of physical violence or deadly force. The legal defense argument can be used by a defense attorney when their client or someone with their client at the time of the attack was in imminent danger of physical harm. This does not mean that self-defense cases are straightforward to argue in court. With the right legal representation, a client can avoid criminal charges or civil liability.

New York’s Penal Law, specifically Article 35, outlines situations where an individual may be justified in using physical force. Under the law, an individual can use the amount of force needed to defend themselves or others who are in imminent danger of harm from the illegal use of force.

There are specific circumstances where this defense argument can be applied. The person arguing self-defense must also demonstrate that they had no reasonable means of retreating from the confrontation. Self-defense can be used to prevent the following crimes:

  • -Kidnapping
  • -Robbery
  • -Rape
  • -Arson
  • -Burglary

Self-defense claims are not limited to these crimes. If you recently had to defend yourself or others using force, contact one of our attorneys so they can provide legal advice about your defense. Even in cases where physical or deadly force was needed to protect yourself or another, you may still initially face criminal charges because proving self-defense isn’t always easy.

When Can I Not Use Self-Defense as a Justification for Harming Someone?

One of the most important elements when determining self-defense is determining who initiated the altercation. A defendant who started a fight or said or did anything to antagonize the assailant could potentially lose their self-defense claim. Provoking someone to attack you does not justify acts of self-defense that result from that provocation.

A court will consider two other elements: the Castle Doctrine and the Duty to Retreat. Laws in New York recognize these two similar doctrines.

Any New Yorker facing physical harm has a duty to retreat. This means that they must take reasonable steps to leave or flee the potential confrontation. A court will examine whether someone took steps to reduce the risk of harm before using deadly force. There are many situations where someone at risk of being harmed may not readily know of a safe escape route. Indeed, often in the chaos of a random shooting, the targets of that attack have little, if any time, to consider an escape route.

The Castle Doctrine applies when the potential victim of violence is in their own home. In those cases, the homeowner is free to use deadly force to defend both themselves and their family. There is no expectation for someone in their home to flee their own residence.


Q: Is New York a Stand-Your-Ground State?

A: No. New York has not adopted stand-your-ground laws as other states have. Stand-your-ground laws make self-defense claims easier because they expand the castle doctrine to any location. Although New York is not a stand-your-ground state, there still are legal provisions that can help someone avoid criminal or civil penalties if they use force to protect themselves or others.

Q: Can an Attacker Sue Me for Defending Myself or My Home?

A: Unfortunately, there are no ways to guarantee that someone won’t sue you, even if the evidence shows that they are in the wrong. These cases are often considered frivolous, and anyone who attacked you and then tried to sue you could face steep civil penalties and potentially have to cover your legal fees. If you are being sued for actions that you took in self-defense, our law firm can represent you in court and work to have the case dismissed, as we have for our many clients.

Q: Who Has the Burden of Proof for Self-Defense in New York?

A: The burden of proof falls on prosecutors in criminal cases and plaintiffs in civil cases in New York. This means that anyone being accused of violating a crime has certain rights and protections. If the state brings criminal charges against someone who claims that they acted in self-defense, then prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged crime. In civil cases, plaintiffs must prove that a preponderance of evidence shows that the defendant violated a civil law or statute.

Q: Does New York Have a Stand-Your-Ground Law?

A: No. New York is one of a minority of states to adopt duty-to-retreat laws. No New Yorker can claim the right to use deadly force when they have reasonable means of retreating. However, these laws do not apply to individuals who are in their own homes when a perpetrator assaults or threatens the homeowners. Prosecutors also consider whether the individual who allegedly uses deadly force in self-defense was or was not the initial aggressor.

Schedule Your Consultation With a Self-Defense Attorney Today

Even in a state like New York, where there are legal protections for individuals who defend themselves, someone who is forced to take action to fight back against a criminal could still require legal action. Using violence or deadly force, while sometimes necessary in cases of self-defense, can still result in temporary criminal charges while the details of the case are investigated. Even temporary charges can negatively impact immigrant cases.

Throughout that process, you can trust the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, to protect your rights while working to have your name cleared using existing laws. To schedule your self-defense consultation, contact our office today.

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