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Understanding your rights to defend yourself

On Behalf of | Oct 24, 2023 | Criminal Law |

Every person has a fundamental, constitutional and civil right to defend themselves, but the extent to which we can exercise those rights is often a topic of concern. Different rules and regulations exist in each state that define the legality of self-defense.

We all have a right to defend ourselves from immediate danger, but some states may argue that people cannot exercise that right when they have an opportunity to retreat. The duty to retreat applies in most situations that occur outside your home. However, in other states, including Montana, you do not have a duty to retreat under self-defense circumstances. Instead, you can stand your ground.

The right to stand your ground in Montana

Because you have a right to stand your ground, you can defend yourself regardless of whether you are in your home or another location, although there are still limitations. You would have to be in the area legally. Otherwise, you lose your right to self-defense.

Under Montana law, using or threatening to use force is only legal when you reasonably believe you must do something to defend yourself because of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. The right to use force that can likely cause death or serious bodily harm is only legal if you reasonably believe the force is necessary to prevent the following:

  • Imminent death
  • Serious bodily harm
  • The commission of a forcible felony

The unlawful force you use must be proportional to the threat you face. You have no obligation to retreat or call law enforcement to defend you.

The significance of reasonable belief

Violent confrontations can happen anywhere, but you can only stand your ground when you have a reasonable belief that a person will kill you or cause you serious harm. Reasonable belief becomes a burden when you are facing criminal charges. You would need evidence to justify that your belief was reasonable.