The following is a video transcript.
Hi, Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney for Virginia. Can I defend myself in the mall parking lot? Virginia is a Stand Your Ground State, which means that if you did not start the fight or provoke the incident in any way, then you can stand your ground and defend yourself against your attacker without having to retreat.
If you are without fault in provoking or bringing on the fight, and you reasonably fear that you are in imminent danger of being killed or in imminent danger of great bodily harm, and you use no more force than is reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm under the circumstances as they appear to you, then your use of deadly force in self-defense is legally justified.
The test of whether your fear was sufficiently reasonable to justify acting in self-defense is based upon your subjective point of view. The perceived danger must be imminent and must be manifested by an overt act. The existence of imminent danger is determined from your point of view at the time you used deadly force to defend yourself. In the context of self-defense, imminent danger is defined as an immediate real threat to one’s safety. There must be some menacing act presenting peril.
The act must be of such a character as to afford a reasonable ground for believing there is a design to do some serious bodily harm—an imminent danger of carrying such design into immediate execution. Whether imminent danger existed or not will depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Threats or words alone will not justify the taking of a life prior to an overt act. The bare fear of serious bodily injury or even death, however well-grounded, will not justify the taking of human life. There must also be some overt act indicative of imminent danger at the time. There must be some overt act from the alleged attacker before the danger becomes imminent.
On the other hand, if you are partially at fault in starting or provoking the fight or confrontation, then Virginia law requires you to retreat as far as you safely can before you are permitted to use what is called “Excusable Self-Defense,” if you are at least some degree at fault in provoking or bringing on the fight. You must:
- Retreat as far as you safely can under the circumstances in a good faith attempt to abandon the fight;
- Make known your desire for peace by word or act;
- Be reasonably afraid under the circumstances, as they appear to you, that you were in immediate danger of being killed or that you are in imminent danger of great bodily harm; and
- Use no more force under the circumstances as they appear to you than was reasonably necessary to protect yourself from the perceived harm.
Then your use of deadly force and self-defense is legally excused.