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A Guide To The Self-Defense Laws Of Arizona

Jul 15, 2023 | Criminal

The state of Arizona is a “Stand Your Ground” state. This phrase has become a hot-button topic in recent years, but how much do you really know about it? Americans across the country often refer to “stand your ground” as if it is one all-encompassing law, but the fact is that there is no such thing as a stand your ground law. This phrase was coined to refer to the laws that govern the use of physical – or even deadly – force in manners of self-defense. However, despite our state’s history and role in many of the deadliest events in the Wild West, being a stand your ground state does not mean a person can simply whip out their six-shooter on a whim. In this blog, we’ll be delving into the Arizona laws that are commonly referenced collectively under the stand your ground umbrella, as well as some other factors that may play a part in them.  

What Are “Stand Your Ground” Laws? 

Again, ‘stand your ground’ is simply a phrase which was coined to reference self-defense laws which permit the use of deadly force for any individual who believes they are in imminent danger. Not every state allows such action; Arizona is one that does. However, there are many facets to the laws that govern self-defense, and before one can fully comprehend them, it is crucial to understand what it means to have a “duty to retreat.” 

Duty to retreat refers to the obligation a person faces to retreat to safety in a situation where they are facing imminent harm rather than using force to defend themselves. Arizona law does not currently dictate that a person has a duty to retreat (with exceptions to be explained later). It is important to note, though, that many states who do enforce a duty to retreat do not expect one to retreat from their own home or vehicle.

As a whole, the purpose of these laws is to eliminate any confusion about when individuals can defend themselves, and reduce the amount of people convicted and punished for legitimately defending their life against a threat. 

The Castle Doctrine And Stand Your Ground Laws In Arizona

While the castle doctrine and stand your ground laws are closely related, there are some key distinctions between the two. First, the castle doctrine typically only refers to use of force within the confines of one’s home. This stems from common law that asserts that your home is your “castle” and you have a right to defend it. While the state of Arizona does not practice specific castle laws, a person is permitted to use or threaten use of physical force in their home, residence, place of business, land they own/lease, or anywhere they have the right to be. Stand your ground laws typically refer to the need for self-defense outside of these areas. 

To reiterate, there is no duty to retreat in Arizona before using physical force, but this does not apply if you are in a place you are not legally permitted to be, or if you are engaged in an unlawful act. There are 3 situations in which you are able to use physical force against another individual, and they are:

  1. In an act of self-defense in which you are facing an immediate threat to your health and safety.
  2. In an act of defense to a third person in which a reasonable person would believe was facing an immediate threat to their health and safety.
  3. In an effort to prevent such serious crimes as arson of an occupied structure, burglary in the second or first degree, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, sexual assault, child molestation, armed robbery, or aggravated assault.

Additionally, there are several scenarios in which use of force in self-defense is not justified, such as:

  • In response to verbal threats only
  • When resisting arrest
  • When an innocent bystander is harmed 
  • When the person claiming self-defense provoked the threat
  • When the response is not proportionate to the threat

Arizona Constitutional Carry Laws 

It would be impossible to discuss stand your ground laws and their permission of deadly force against an immediate threat without addressing the weapon and firearm laws. Since 2010, Arizona has been a “Constitutional” carry state, meaning that any person 21 years of age or older who can legally purchase/own a firearm has the right to carry it on their person without obtaining a permit, license, or registration. Despite this, there are several places where the carrying of a firearm – either open or concealed – is not permitted, such as:

  • Businesses where alcohol is served for consumption on the premises
  • Polling places on election days
  • K-12 school grounds
  • Commercial nuclear or hydroelectric generating stations
  • Military bases or other installations
  • Indian reservations
  • Game preserves
  • National parks
  • Correctional facilities
  • Federal buildings
  • Airports 
  • And more!

This is necessary to be aware of because, as previously stated, use of physical force to defend yourself is not permitted if you are engaging in unlawful acts. Using a firearm – even if it is legally owned – to defend yourself in a place where firearms were not permitted can affect your ability to claim self-defense. It is your responsibility, as a law-abiding citizen, to be knowledgeable of the Arizona gun laws at all times. 

Arizona Self-Defense Trials 

In the aftermath of an alleged self-defense situation, most criminal defense attorneys will first attempt to prevent the state from filing formal charges. Though, if a person claiming that they used physical force against another individual as an act of self-defense is ultimately brought to trial, the prosecution must prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the defendant did not act in a reasonable or proportionate manner, and that the threat was not immediately necessary. An experienced attorney who is knowledgeable of Arizona self-defense laws will review the evidence, interview witnesses, and build a strong case to show that the use of physical or deadly force was entirely justified.

Alatorre Law Is Committed To Upholding The Laws Of Arizona And Defending Your Rights

No one should have to suffer a false conviction for defending their own life or the lives of others. If you have recently been charged for using physical force in what you believe to be a manner of self-defense, you need aggressive representation to beat the prosecution’s case against you. Call Alatorre Law today to schedule a free consultation with a Top 100 Trial Lawyer who fights for your rights!

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