Imagine ever having to defend yourself or your family on your own property in Georgia. That should make you wonder, is there a self defense law in Georgia? The answer is yes. Knowing the stand your ground law will give you the tools to defend yourself, stand your ground, and use reasonable force when needed.
What Is the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia?
A person always has a right to protect themselves. When under attack, you are not expected to roll with the punches. Most law enforcement actors would advise you to run and hide, and only attack the attacker when necessary. Self defense is a tricky subject; stand your ground laws vary from one state to the next.
In Georgia, everyone is legally allowed to stand their ground. In essence, that means that you do not have to retreat when under attack in a place where you’re allowed to be and while not participating in any unlawful activity. Instead, you can stand your ground and use force to prevent death or harm to your person or someone else. It is up to you as the attacked to determine whether or not the use of force is reasonable and necessary. That may include deadly force.
Why Is There a Self Defense Law in Georgia?
Self defense laws in Georgia, including the stand your ground law code, were created to protect innocent individuals from being prosecuted. Any individual is allowed to act in self defense when it is necessary. Any damage inflicted upon the attacker in these circumstances should not be considered assault. Stand your ground law in Georgia protects people who are being attacked and act in self defense from being prosecuted in court, allowing them to use the law as their legal defense.
Castle Doctrine in Georgia
The Castle Doctrine allows any place you call your “castle” or home (usually referring to a house where you live that is in your permanent or temporary ownership) to be a place where you can protect yourself from intruders. As such, any intruder entering your property may faсу deadly force, if you feel it reasonable and necessary to protect yourself. As a result, you will not face any legal consequences for causing harm to the intruder.
The Castle Doctrine only applies to a place you legally occupy, such as your house or car. Though you’re allowed to use the force you deem fit for the situation, your duty is to assess the situation and decide if and what level of power is needed.
Georgia law does not rely on the Castle Doctrine to defend individuals from intruders and attackers. The Georgia stand your ground law code is a variation of the Castle Doctrine practiced in Georgia that allows individuals to use reasonable force in protecting themselves while on their property. The two laws bear similar features, allowing victims of home intruders to use force to protect themselves instead of retreating.
How Is Stand Your Ground Determined Before the District Attorney Sees the Case?
The stand your ground law is a powerful tool for individuals who have to use force to protect themselves or their families. It prevents such individuals from facing jail time or fines for using force for self-defense. While the Georgia stand your ground law statute has been tremendously helpful to its residents and people from other states, it can also be used unlawfully as a defense in court.
Though the stand your ground law may appear quite simple and straight-forward, there are a few crucial points that can make or break a case.
The individual exercising the stand your ground law in Georgia has to:
- Be in his legal residence at the time of the intrusion, most often referring to his home or vehicle;
- Make a judgment to determine whether the use of force (especially deadly force) is necessary to protect themselves or someone else from bodily harm or death;
- Use just enough force to protect themselves or someone else.
One cannot seek the protection of the stand your ground law in Georgia if they:
- Are in the process of or fleeing from conducting or attempting to conduct illegal activity during the intrusion;
- Acted as the initial aggressor and provoked the attack to justify using force;
- Initiated the attack.
Law enforcement officers and investigators must consider many factors when putting the case together. They have to determine where the attack took place and who initiated it. Most importantly, they have to find evidence supporting the claim made by the individual stating they acted in self defense, or proving the opposite. If it is determined the individual did not act in self defense and meant to harm the intruder, they cannot use the protection of the stand your ground laws.
All the information is brought to the district attorney, whose job is to make a final decision and grant or not grant protection of the stand your ground law in Georgia. The case may be handed over to a grand jury if the evidence is unclear.
Self-Defense Cases and the Stand Your Ground Law in Georgia
Self defense cases are quite common in Georgia. Though some individuals may use the Georgia stand your ground law to cover up a murder, it gives lawful individuals immunity in court after acting in self defense.
One such case was discussed at the end of November 2022. A shooting ensued on Gresham Road in Atlanta when one person was killed due to a home invasion. When the case was in the news, police were leaning towards justifying the shooter based on the stand your ground law. The three remaining intruders were en route to face their charges in court.
Not all those who want to use the stand your ground law in their favor do so successfully. A black man named William Wilson was faced with criminal charges for shooting and killing a 17-year old girl. To exercise the Georgia stand your ground law, Wilson stated that the girl and her friends were screaming racial slurs at him from their car and trying to “run him and his white girlfriend off the road”. Wilson argued the shot was self defense and got ten years in prison, which is the longest sentence one can receive for taking someone’s life as a result of self defense and enforcing the stand your ground law.
It appears that stand your ground laws are a common defense for Georgia residents. Another case of shooting in Atlanta was reported in August of 2022. At the time of investigation, police believed the culprit acted in self defense.
Many have heard of squatter’s rights, the concept that if you live in an empty structure, eventually that structure becomes yours. Bas...
States with stand your ground laws introduced them to protect people who were forced to act in self defense. After all, in what world does it make sense to send to jail a person who was merely trying to protect themselves or their family? Standing your ground does not mean taking matters into your own hands and initiating attacks on any uninvited guest on your property. Quite the opposite; it’s a tool that can save you when there is not enough time for police intervention.
The answer to the question, “Is self defense legal?” is yes. However, remember that standing your ground implies using reasonable force when necessary under the specific stand your ground law. The jury might find the level of force used unnecessarily strong and your attorney might not be able to argue with that.
Can you defend your property with deadly force in Georgia?
Under the stand your ground law, you are justified to use any level of force that you deem reasonable and necessary to protect yourself, another person, or your property. If the intruder refuses to retreat and does not respond to smaller levels of force, you may use deadly force to stand your ground.
Can you carry guns in Georgia?
Effective the 12th of April of 2022, Georgia allows all lawful weapons carriers, experienced or not, to carry a handgun in public. That applies to most public places, but not all. A legal weapons carrier will not be subject to background checks or obtaining a permit to buy and carry a handgun. If you fall in the lawful weapons carrier category, you can have a gun in Georgia.
Can I shoot a trespasser in Georgia?
You cannot shoot a person simply because they are trespassing. You are obliged to ask them to leave if it is safe. If the trespasser does not harm you or your property (perhaps they ended up on your property by accident), you cannot shoot them. You can practice the stand your ground law only if the trespasser poses an active threat to you, another person, or your property.