Self-defense laws in Oklahoma have certainly evolved over time and now provide protections for justified lethal force in a number of situations. To better grasp self-defense laws in Oklahoma, one must understand the Castle Doctrine, Make My Day Doctrine, and Stand Your Ground Doctrine—and where things stand today.
Here’s what you need to know about each.
The Castle Doctrine is based on an ages-old English common law rule stating that a person should have the right to assume safety in their own home or business. It permits a homeowner to use deadly force against an intruder if the person living in the home has a reasonable belief that they are in danger of death or severe harm. This doctrine was adopted into the Oklahoma Firearms Act of 1971.
Make My Day Doctrine
The Make My Day doctrine extends the protections of the Castle Doctrine to others who are legally in a home or business.
For example, suppose you have a babysitter watching your kids while you are away, and someone attempts to break into the home and cause harm to either the children or the babysitter. Under the Castle Doctrine, the babysitter would not be legally protected if they used force against the intruder and caused severe bodily harm or death.
The Make My Day Doctrine provides a legal defense to the babysitter in this situation, as long as they can demonstrate a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to themselves or another person legally in the home when using potentially lethal defensive force.
Stand Your Ground Doctrine
While you’ll certainly find the Castle Doctrine and laws similar to the Make My Day laws in practically every other US state, Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law expands the right to self-defense far past what many other states allow.
Under the Stand Your Ground law, any individual engaging in lawful activity within a place they are legally allowed has the right to use reasonable (even deadly) force to protect themselves or others from what is reasonably perceived to be imminent harm. Furthermore, unlike laws in several other states, the individual is not required to attempt to flee or remove themselves from the situation beforehand:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. 21 O.S. § 1289.25(D)
What About Killing in Self-Defense?
If a person kills someone and claims self-defense, their claims have to be backed up with evidence that shows (among others) they were not the initial aggressor, that the amount of force used was appropriate to neutralize the threat, and reasonable fear of imminent danger.
Lethal force is only allowable to protect personal safety under the threat of great bodily injury or death—never for the protection of property. If the threat has been neutralized or the threat is attempting to flee, lethal force is not legally justified. One notable example of this is the incident involving an Oklahoma City pharmacy owner in 2009 who repeatedly shot and killed an armed robber after the robber had already been struck by gunfire and was lying unconscious on the ground. The pharmacist, Jerome Ersland, was later convicted of first-degree murder for what was essentially an execution of his assailant after he was no longer a threat.
The Right Legal Representation Makes All the Difference
Cases of self-defense are not always black and white in terms of clarity. The ambiguity in Oklahoma’s self-defense laws can sometimes leave a person exposed to legal liabilities even when they were rightfully defending themselves or others during a situation they did not invite. If you or a loved one has used force to defend themselves or anyone else, it is crucial to secure the expertise of an experienced law firm that will fight on your behalf to demonstrate the validity of the actions taken.
Overman Legal Group, PLLC is a uniquely modern criminal defense and civil law firm that provides personalized service through a team of dedicated and award-winning attorneys who will always utilize every last resource on your behalf when defending your right to self-defense.
Don’t leave yourself exposed to punishment for rightfully defending yourself or others. Align yourself with an experienced team of attorneys with extensive expertise in Oklahoma self-defense laws—and a proven record of success.