The United States Constitution and state laws permit people to protect themselves. Homeowners have legal measures that may be used to keep out intruders. The use of force by one person against another is illegal unless used in the line of duty, such as a police officer, or in reasonable self-defense. What is reasonable depends on the severity of the attack and the circumstance of the attack.
A person may use force, even deadly force, against another person if he/she reasonably believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting him/herself against the use of unlawful force by such other person. Such justifiable use of force is commonly called "self-defense." In other words, self defense is the right of a person to defend against any unlawful force or any seriously threatened unlawful force that is actually pending or may be reasonably anticipated. The force used by the defender must not be significantly greater than, and must be proportionate to, the unlawful force threatened or used against the defender. For example:
Unlawful force is defined as force used against a person without the person's consent in such a way that the action would be a civil wrong or a criminal offense. If the force used by the defender was not immediately necessary for his/her protection or if the force used was disproportionate in its intensity to that of the attacker, then the use of such force by the defendant was not justified and the self-defense claim in a criminal prosecution fails. For example:
If someone swings at you with a club and you knock her out with a punch, you have acted justifiably and legally to defend yourself. The force you used was not disproportionate to the force of the attack. It is immaterial that you were not actually hit by the club.
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