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If I shoot someone in the back can that still be self defense?
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If I shoot someone in the back can that still be self defense?

For Example:
What if he turned around to reach for a weapon and you end up shooting him in the back?
Or what if he was walking to his car to retreive a gun after threatening you that he was going to kill you with it?
Additional Details
I'm not planning on being in this scenario. My 13 year old daughter asked me this and I thought I would ask it for her..


Here in Massachusetts, you can use deadly force up to the point where the threat is neutralized, assuming of course the other person is armed or you have cause to believe that they are armed. Once the threat is neutralized, call the authorities and do not discuss the event in detail with LEOs in any type of interview until you are represented by a competent attorney who has experience with deadly force cases. Rememer, you have the right to remain silent. Exercise it. Nobody ever talked their way out of jail, but you can sure as hell talk your way into it!

Someone is in my house, between me and my children. He has a gun. He suddenly turns and starts to attack my kids.

Do you think for one moment that I'd NOT be justified in shooting him in the back? Both morally and legally?

One more, just for fun - we did this with Airsoft guns just to prove a point: take 2 people, 10 feet apart. Tell one person that, whenever he wants to, he can fire one shot at the other person and then run away. Tell the other person to shoot only when he's being shot at. Guaranteed the second person will shoot the first in the back, even though he no longer represents an imminent threat. It simply takes longer to observe, decide, and then act on the information than it does to turn tail and run.

As for your second scenario, though, no. Deadly force is only justified when there is immediate danger of death or grievous bodily harm (or, in Florida, during the commission of arson). Because the peril is not immediate - the gun has not yet been produced - there is not justification to shoot. Take that time to distance yourself from the shooter, take cover, or just close the front door if you're at home.


Also, note that the term "self-defense" also includes defense of others. So if someone is about to hit your wife with an axe and you shoot him in the back, that is self-defense.

"[Self defense is] an affirmative defense (as to a murder charge) alleging that the defendant used force necessarily to protect himself or herself because of a reasonable belief that the other party intended to inflict great bodily harm or death."

Laws vary from state to state, but in some states if you are in your own home, you have no duty to retreat. In some states, you must only retreat if you can do so in "perfect safety". In general, there has to be an immediate thread of great bodily harm or death. In some, you can use lethal force to defend property.

Julia S
In the latter case, you'd probably be in trouble (you definitely had a chance to escape, since he was leaving you behind). In the former, you might be able to get away with it. However, in both cases you would need to prove that they were in fact going to try to kill you.

I'm not exactly an expert in this, but, it's not self defence if you dont see a weapon, and if they say they are getting a gun, you probably should not shoot till you know they have a gun.

The first one maybe. The second one, no. In the second example you do not know that he has a gun and that he is going to actually deploy it. The threat is not immediate.

you can not do that if the person in walking away,. they always say to kill them and drag them into your house but that doesnt work. dont try it unless you are in a serious problem were you are strugling with a person that wants to hurt you.

be careful.

max's mom
Usually, depending on what state you live in, you can only use self-defense as a defense to a crime if you are using the same amount of force against an attacker that they are using against you, and you are in need of defending yourself. Example: if I slap you, you can't take a bazooka and blow my head off. Now in most states you can only be defending yourself if you are in imminent danger. A threat of future danger is not enough and the criminal system considers whether you had to defend yourself (vs. say walk away, close the door) vs. you had no means to escape.
In the first example, it is hard to show you are being threatened by someone who is walking or running away from you. They may be going for a gun- true - or they may be trying to leave and go home. I guess I would make sure before I took someone's life on that call. If this attack happens in your home, some states, like Florida, let you kill intruders, but your example does not say if you are in your home. Hope that helps.

Shooting someone in the back is DIFFICULT to sell as self defense. The general rule is that you must feel MORTAL peril of yourself or another person to justify any exercise of lethal force. Unless there is the presentation of a reasonable and credible threat of grievous bodily harm, you may have a problem.

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