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Is it self-defense, assault or murder?

Oklahoma has very liberal laws concerning self-defense when compared to many other states. This does not give Norman residents carte blanche to open fire on every passer-by who casts them a funny look, however.

Oklahoma law states that residents "have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes or places of business." If they reasonably feel that they are at risk of great bodily harm or imminent death, they can respond with defensive force, including lethal force, if the person they defend themselves against was breaking the law by forcibly entering their vehicle, business or home.

State law goes even further. As a "stand your ground" state, as long as you are not breaking the law and have the right to be where you are, you don't have a duty to retreat from an aggressor. As such, you can "meet force with force, including deadly force," as long as you reasonably believe that is necessary to prevent great bodily harm or death to you or another person or to prevent forcible felonies.

This does not mean that if a person walking down the sidewalk curses and jostles you as you pass that you have the right to shoot them. You must always keep in mind that the gold standard applied in these cases by the Oklahoma criminal courts is that your decision must be "reasonable." If it fails that test, your claims of self-defense could instead wind up with you charged with assault or homicide.

Are you still confused about the difference? An Oklahoma criminal defense attorney may be able to clarify the matter for you.

Source: Money Instructor, "Excessive Force: How This Can Change Self Defense Into A Crime," accessed Feb. 23, 2018

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