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Reviewing Mississippi’s self-defense laws

On Behalf of | Jul 29, 2022 | Criminal Law |

A common assumption that many in Mississippi may hold is that any altercation justifying criminal charges must logically include two willing participants. For this reason, claims of self-defense made by one facing such charges may often prompt skepticism.

Yet at the same time, most may also recognize that there are likely scenarios in which a reasonable person may feel compelled to defend themselves (or their loved ones). The question then becomes when does the law justify such action?

Where is defensive action permitted?

The answer to that question often comes down to one of two legal principles. The first is “Stand Your Ground,” which essentially frees one from the duty to retreat from any situation in which they feel threatened. Legal experts refer to the second as “the Castle Doctrine,” which limits defensive action to those places where one is legally entitled to be. This may include places such as:

  • One’s home
  • One’s personal vehicle
  • One’s place of business
  • One’s private property
  • Any location where one serves as another’s legal agent (i.e., a property manager on a rental property)

Which legal philosophy does Mississippi follow?

A review of Mississippi’s self-defense statute shows that the state incorporates elements of both principles. When listing scenarios where the law justifies force (even deadly force), Section 97-3-15 of the Mississippi Code lists cases where one acts in defense of their dwelling, personal vehicle or place of business, alongside situations where a situation calls for defensive action to arrest the efforts of another attempting to commit a felony against the actor. Understanding these situations not only helps to empower one act (when required) but also in answering potential criminal scrutiny when others call one’s actions into question.