It may be a natural reaction for you to dismiss a person’s claim of self-defense as justification for taking violent action against another. Like most, you probably base many of your opinions based on your own experience, and if you have been able to avoid contentious encounters in the past, you might assume that everyone else is as well. At least that might be your line of thinking prior to having been placed in a scenario where your safety (or the safety of others) felt threatened, and you felt compelled to act. The important question then becomes when is violent action actually justified by law?

The answer can be found in Section 97-3-15 of Mississippi’s Annotated Code. Here it states that violent action (even lethal action) is viewed as reasonable if you believe it necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm being visited upon you or another who is in your home, vehicle or place of business. That fear is considered to be justified if the person against whom you were acting had attempted to gain forcible or unlawful entry into any of the aforementioned locations, was attempting to remove you or another from any of the aforementioned locations against your will, or have given your reasonable cause to believe that they had or intended to do so.

Some might try to tell you that you have a duty to try and retreat from a potentially dangerous encounter before defending yourself and/or others. Yet according to the law, as long as you are in a place where you are legally entitled to be, you have no obligation to retreat. Conversely, self-defense is not considered justified if the person against whom you took action was also entitled to be in the location where the altercation occurred.

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