Indiana Self-Defense Laws

One of the possible legal defenses against allegations of assault or battery is that the defendant was defending himself or herself from harm. As per the Indiana Code, self-defense is an accepted defense, and individuals cannot be punished for protecting themselves or other parties from harm, violence, or death. In this article, we look at the state of Indiana’s self-defense laws in more detail and learn how self-defense can be used by attorneys as a defense in court.

How to Understand Self-Defense Laws in Indiana?

All self-defense laws in Indiana are governed under Indiana Code 35-41-2, also known as the Indiana Castle Doctrine. According to this statute, all people within the Hoosier State have the right to defend themselves or a third party from violence or death. In other words, everyone has a legal right to protect themselves without facing criminal consequences for their actions. Moreover, there is no duty to retreat in Indiana, which means that there is no legal obligation to withdraw. If someone is attacking a person, that person has every right to fight back.

However, the legislation is somewhat more complicated than it seems. The defendant can only use reasonable force against the other person that is relative to the danger posed, and proving self-defense requires three elements to be met.

Elements to Establish Self-Defense

According to the Indiana right to self-defense laws, self-defense can only be used in court if three elements apply to the case. These elements are: 

  1. The defendant had a right to be at the location of the crime
  2. The defendant did not provoke the attacker or instigate the violence
  3. The defendant had a true and reasonable fear of bodily harm or death

Right to Be at the Location

The first element requires the defendant to have been at a place where he or she was legally allowed to be. For example, this element would be satisfied if a person broke into the defendant’s home or if the incident happened in a public place and the defendant acted violently in self-protection. However, if the defendant was trespassing or on someone else’s property, they’d not be able to claim self-defense. The defendant shouldn’t have been there in the first place, so the incident likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

No Provocation or Initiation of Violence

To claim self-defense in a court of law, the defendant must have acted without fault. This means that the defendant cannot have aggravated the attacker or instigated a situation in the hope of starting a fight. Anyone who initiates violence cannot claim self-defense when the other person attacks, and neither can the defendant willingly participate in the violent activity. By doing these things, the situation would only have occurred because of the provocation.

Reasonable Fear of Harm

Finally, the defendant must have a reasonable fear of harm or death from any attacker using unlawful force. For example, a friend shouting during an argument would not stand as grounds for self-defense. This is just an argument, and it isn’t reasonable to assume that this friend would cause serious bodily injury to the defendant. However, if the attacker drew out a weapon or started shouting verbal threats of death and other unlawful acts of violence at the victim, then it is reasonable that the defendant would fear physical harm. 

In Indiana, there is also an Indiana Stand Your Ground law. This doctrine states that everyone has the right to defend themselves in their own home using force. Therefore, anyone trespassing on your property or illegally entering an occupied vehicle is considered a threat, and the defendant does not need to prove reasonable fear of being attacked. The fact that there is an illegal intruder is the reasonable fear itself.

When Is Self-Defense Justified in Indiana?

In most cases, self-defense is justified in Indiana as long as the three elements above are satisfied. If the harm caused was used to protect the defendant or another person from an imminent attack or other criminal activity, then self-defense can be used as a defense strategy.

However, Indiana Castle Doctrine law further states that the force used against the attacker must be proportional to the harm feared. In other words, the force used must be necessary to stop the attacker without causing more harm than needed. It would, therefore, be disproportionate to respond to an attacker’s punches by pulling out a firearm and shooting the attacker. Punching the attacker back, however, would be accepted as self-defense. Similarly, if the attacker retreats and flees the scene, the defendant cannot chase after them to continue the fight.

How Do You Prove Self-Defense Under Indiana Law?

Self-defense laws in Indiana require the act of self-defense to be provable beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, the attorney must convince the prosecution that the defendant’s actions were only for self-protection. This can be done by proving that the defendant:

  • Had a right to be in the location where the incident took place
  • Acted without fault and did not provoke the attacker in any way
  • Had a fear of bodily injury or death that is deemed reasonable
  • Only applied force that was proportional to the attack

Meanwhile, the state will try to disprove at least one of the above elements. Ideally, the prosecutor can be convinced of the victim’s innocence before the case goes to trial. If not, the defendant’s attorney must provide evidence to prove the above elements in court in front of a judge or jury.

Also read:Private Right of Action

If you or someone you know has ever gotten into trouble, received a ticket from an officer, or faced criminal charges, then you have f...

Are There Any Civil Liabilities for Self-Defense?

Civil liabilities refer to lawsuits filed against damage that occurred as a result of the defendant’s self-protection. Previously, individuals could face civil charges even if their criminal charges are cleared on grounds of self-defense. However, the House Enrolled Act. No. 1284 now prevents this from happening. As long as the self-defense is legally justified and the attacker was committing an aggravated battery offense, the defendant cannot face civil liabilities.

Conclusions

Indiana right to self-defense laws allow people to protect and defend themselves, other people, and their property from serious bodily injury, other physical harm, or death without any legal jeopardy. If you are facing criminal charges, consider retaining legal representation as soon as possible by booking a consultation with an experienced law firm. They will be able to build the defense strategy to cast reasonable doubt in the right place.

Article by Mariia Synytska

Mariia Synytska is Content Lead at Lawrina, a legal portal that projects innovation in law. Mariia manages the content on the website, takes interviews with lawyers and law experts, and looks for the interesting topics for Lawrina's audience. If you would like to be a blogger for Lawrina, you can contact Mariia for all the details via email m.synytska@lawrina.com.

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