Self Defense Law and Legal Definition

Self-defense is the right to use reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm, or to a lesser extent, one's property, from the attack of an aggressor, if the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger. Self-defense is a defense to a criminal charge or to tort liability. To establish the defense, the person must be free from fault or provocation, must have no means of escape or retreat, and there must be an impending peril.

The force used in self-defense may be sufficient for protection from apparent harm (not just an empty verbal threat) or to halt any danger from attack, but cannot be an excuse to prolong the attack or use excessive force. Self-defense cannot include killing or great bodily harm to defend property, unless personal danger is also involved.