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Missouri Self-Defense Laws 2021 FAQs

The rules on self-defense are continually debated and reshaped by new developments, and currently leave much room for argument.

If you are considering self-defense as a legal strategy against a criminal charge in Missouri, it is crucial to understand our state’s current laws on this topic.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Missouri’s self-defense laws in 2021. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for more information.

What is Considered Self-Defense in Missouri?

Under Missouri Revised Statutes 563.031, a person may use physical force to defend themselves or others if they reasonably believe that someone is using or is about to use unlawful force on them.

The law provides three elements for physical force to qualify as self-defense:

  • woman using a pepperspray for self defense against mugger in a dark alleyImminent threat.

    There must be an immediate danger to prompt physical self-defense. This danger may be in the form of aggressive actions or threatening words. “Imminent” means it is approaching urgently, and not, for example, a threat that was made two days ago.

  • Reasonable fear.

    The person must be reasonable in believing that the danger in front of them warranted self-defense.

  • Proportionate force.

    The physical force used in self-defense must be proportional to the perceived threat. For example, it may not be considered proportional if one person shoved another during an altercation, and the other responded by firing a gun. On the other hand, if the attacker pulls out a knife and moves to stab the other person, the use of a gun could be argued as proportional force.

Missouri law further allows the use of deadly force as self-defense, but only in these situations:

  • A person reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to defend themselves or others.
  • A person is defending themselves from someone who has unlawfully entered their property or a property they are leasing.

Is Missouri a “Stand Your Ground” State?

Yes. “Stand your ground” is an informal term for a law that says you are not required to retreat before using defensive force. In some states, physical self-defense is only allowed after you have attempted to retreat from danger or after it is clear that fleeing is not possible. But in Missouri, the law clearly states that you do not have a duty to retreat if you are in your own property, in a property you are leasing, or anywhere you have a right to be.

Missouri’s “stand your ground” law took effect only in 2017, but it essentially expanded your right to self-defense. A location where you “have the right to be” includes not just your private property, home, or vehicle, but potentially your workplace, place of business, or even a public area.

Can You Protect Your Property in Missouri?

Yes. The use of physical force to defend one’s property is allowed by Missouri Revised Statutes 563.041, which states: “A person may… use physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what he or she reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission by such person of stealing, property damage or tampering in any degree.”

Does Missouri Have a “Castle Doctrine” Law?

Yes. “Castle doctrine” is the legal concept that “your home is your castle” and that you may protect the sanctity of this home against intruders.

As stated above, Missouri Revised Statutes 563.031 and 563.041 justify the use of physical force as a defense against intruders and trespassers. Deadly force may also be justified if it is deemed necessary for such protection.

Is it Illegal to Point a Gun at Someone on Your Property in Missouri?

This is a highly debated question especially after the widely publicized case of homeowners Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were charged with a weapons felony for pointing guns at protesters whom they said were trespassing.

It may be noted that Missouri statutes allow the use of deadly force to defend oneself against someone who unlawfully enters their property.

Can you Shoot Trespassers in Missouri?

This could be debated on a case-to-case basis. On one hand, Missouri Revised Statutes Section 563.031 states that deadly force is allowed if it “is used against a person who unlawfully enters, remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle lawfully occupied by such person.” This indicates that firing a weapon at a trespasser is justified under the law.

On the other hand, the law also requires that defensive force must be applied “to the extent [a person] reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend” themselves. In other words, it must be proportional to the perceived danger.

As a theoretical example, a trespasser is unarmed or is only passing through your yard, it may be difficult to justify shooting them. But if the intruder broke into your home brandishing a weapon and threatening to harm you or your family members, firing at this intruder may be argued as a lawful defense.

Consult an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. Charles

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