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Is there a duty to retreat before defending oneself in Missouri?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

The law in Missouri makes it illegal to intentionally harm another person. Acts of violence can lead to assault charges or worse depending on what happens to the person affected by the incident. Violent crimes involving weapons, serious injury or death could lead to felony charges.

Those accused of violent crimes are not always dangerous or volatile people. Sometimes, they are upstanding citizens or devoted parents who had to take action in a dangerous situation. Those who generally follow the law sometimes engage in violent conduct specifically to protect themselves or others from the criminal intentions of another party.

Those people may respond to their pending criminal charges by claiming that they acted in self-defense. Typically, someone cannot be the aggressor if they want to convince the courts that they acted with the intent of defending themselves, not harming another person. Does the law impose an obligation to retreat before acting and self-defense in Missouri?

Most people do not have a duty to retreat

In many states, there is an expectation that someone should leave a space if another person starts behaving in an aggressive or irrational manner. They can only defend themselves physically if they are trapped in a location they cannot leave or they attempt to leave, only to have the other party pursue them.

The duty to retreat requires that people attempt to leave a situation before escalating it by becoming violent in their own defense. In Missouri, people do not have a duty to retreat while defending their own home or a rental property where they live. Additionally, the state has a stand your ground law. People have no duty to retreat if they are in a location lawfully. They can defend themselves in any place they have a legal right to be, such as a store or a public park.

Someone at business or visiting the home of a friend could use physical force in response to an imminent threat without their actions becoming criminal. There is a bit of nuance to self-defense laws, especially when there may be questions about who actually instigated the confrontation.

There are many factors that people must take into consideration when mounting self-defense claims in response to criminal charges. Learning more about Missouri’s self-defense laws can help people plan an appropriate strategy given their unique circumstances.