The law of self-defense in the State of Connecticut is not as straightforward as some may believe. There exist certain preconditions that must get met. This must happen prior to a person getting allowed to assert self defense at trial.
A person is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person to defend themselves or a third person:
- From what they reasonably believe
- To be the use or imminent use of physical force against themselves or another, and
- They may use such degree of force which they reasonably believe to be necessary.
Things to know about self-defense:
- Self-defense or defense of others allows a person to use force against another that would otherwise be illegal.
- There exists a differing legal analysis if a person simply uses physical force as opposed to deadly force.
- Before you can use self-defense there must be two “reasonable” beliefs.
The first is the reasonable belief that physical force is being used. Or, that it is about to be used against them or a third person.
The second is a reasonable belief that the degree of force they are using to defend themselves or a third party is necessary under the circumstance.
- It is a complete defense to certain crimes.
That means, that at a trial the state would have prove all the elements of the crime a person has gotten charged with. Also, they must prove the state would have to disprove that a person had justification in using force to defend themselves.
- Reasonable belief in the context of self defense has subjective and objective aspects.
The law requires that a jury must consider the situation from the perspective of the defendant. Consider what did the defendant actually believe? This is the subjective aspect. However, the law also requires that the belief of a person be reasonable and not irrational under the circumstances. So, would a reasonable person in the defendant’s circumstances come to the same conclusion? This is the objective portion.
In some cases, you may be justified in using reasonable physical force to defend yourself.
Duty to Retreat
There is a duty to retreat in Connecticut. This means that a person is not justified in using deadly force if (1) they know they can avoid the necessity of deadly force with (2) complete safety by retreating. However, there is no requirement that you retreat from your home before using reasonable force; be it deadly or physical force. Another circumstance under which a person is not justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense is when they know that they can avoid the use of physical force with complete safety by surrendering an object of personal property to the assailant.
Note that the defendant has no burden whatsoever to prove that they knew that the assailant would cease the assault upon the defendant if the defendant surrendered their property. The other circumstance under which a person is not justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense is when a person knows that they can avoid the necessity of using force with complete safety by complying with a demand to abstain from performing an act that they are not obliged to perform. Once again, a defendant has no burden whatsoever in establishing that they knew that they would no longer face danger from the assailant if they stopped the conduct in question.
Defeating Self Defense Claims
There are additional ways that the state can defeat a person’s claim of self-defense that does not raise to the level of deadly force. These are:
- When a person provokes the other person to use physical force against themselves (53a-19(c)(1)).
Specifically, the defendant must have embarked upon such conduct with the specific intent to provoke the other into using physical force and intending to cause the other physical injury or death the defendant does not have a burden to prove that they did not intend to provoke another
- When a person is the initial aggressor in the encounter with the other person and does not both (53a-19(c)(2)).
Withdraw from the encounter and effectively communicate their intent to withdraw before using physical force the initial aggressor can be the first person that threatened to use force. A defendant has no burden whatsoever to prove that they were not the initial aggressor.
- Finally, a person is not justified in using any degree of physical force in self-defense against another when the physical force is the product of an illegal combat agreement. (53-19(c)(3)).
This agreement can be inferred from the conduct of the parties.
This cannot be used by the state to defeat a defendant’s claim of self-defense in certain situation. It cannot be used if the violence escalates beyond what was agreed to between the parties.
The defendant has no burden to prove that use of physical force was not the product of a combat by agreement.
Self-defense cases can be complicated and difficult to understand. So, if you find yourself in the midst of a self-defense case, consult an attorney.