How Far is Too Far: Is Your Use of Force Justified? | Oklahoma

Reasonable force is not defined in Oklahoma statutes, but is generally considered to be physical force such as pushing, shoving, or hitting that is unlikely to cause death or great bodily injury.

USE OF FORCE

A person is justified in using force when committed either by the person about to be injured, or by any other person in such person’s aid or defense: in preventing or attempting to prevent an offense against such person; or preventing or attempting to prevent a trespass or other unlawful interference with real or personal property in his or her lawful possession. The amount of force used may not exceed the amount of force a reasonable person in the circumstances, and from the viewpoint of the defendant, would have used to prevent the trespass or unlawful interference.

Pointing your gun at a trespasser or shooting a trespasser on your lawn is a use of force exceeding reasonable force to prevent the offense of trespass. Starting a fight, being the aggressor, or using excessive force or more force than is reasonably sufficient to prevent the offense will make it difficult to convince a judge or jury that you acted “reasonably” in defending yourself or your property.

USE OF DEADLY FORCE

Deadly force is not defined in the statutes. However, the Oklahoma Jury Instructions, which are a source of law on the matter, recite: “Deadly force – force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury.”

The use of deadly force is authorized, however, in very limited situations. Under Oklahoma law, a person is justified in using deadly force in any self-defense situation if that person reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another, or to stop or prevent the commission of a felony that involved the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person. 21 Oklahoma Statute § 733.

HOW THE DEFINITIONS APPLY TO GUN OWNERS

A gun owner may feel threatened by approaching strangers who look like thieves, or muggers, or criminals, but in fact may be aggressive panhandlers. Unreasonably pulling a gun on a homeless person is a sure way to get arrested for feloniously pointing a firearm or assault with a dangerous weapon. Both are felonies and can carry sentences of up to ten years in prison. However, if the aggressive panhandlers pull out a weapon after you refuse to give them money, the use of deadly force may be justified.

Unless you’re about to be immediately killed or grievously injured, you cannot legally or justifiably use deadly force to protect yourself. A jury of 12 people will have to agree with you that they would have acted in much the same way you acted when you pulled your gun and pulled the trigger. The members of the jury will judge your actions according to a standard of reasonableness and vote to either send you to prison or set you free because your actions were justified.

Showing your gun, saying you have a gun, or firing a warning shot may be misconstrued as: feloniously pointing a firearm; assault with a dangerous weapon; misdemeanor pointing a firearm; brandishing a firearm; misdemeanor reckless handling of a firearm; or discharging a weapon in public. It will not matter if you are on your own yard or in your driveway at the time.

If you have any questions about legally justified use of force and deadly force (and similar phrases), call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.

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