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Understanding the Justified Use of Force Defense (National Overview)


Created on October 04, 2016



This lecture describes the most common defense to violent crimes – justification, or the legitimate use of force. Historically, American law has favored the use of force in defense of self  or others, to protect dwellings or property, or to effect lawful arrests. At the same time, a long-term trend has demanded that the use of force be deemed objectively reasonable and has tended to shift the burden of establishing justification to the accused. More recently, the rise of second amendment jurisprudence, together with passage of concealed carry and open carry laws have brought the problems of self defense into the forefront, as have highly publicized cases of self defense such as the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Review the major differences between jurisdictions as to issues such as burdens of proof, "stand your ground," the "castle doctrine," character evidence, and lesser offenses
  2. Understand the problems of presenting justification defenses, including strategy, tactics, instructions, and typical evidentiary issues

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