Use of deadly force in TN

This was written by a Memphis defense attorney:

Tennessee self defense laws: what you need to know to protect yourself legally

Here is the Tennessee law on using deadly force in self-defense. The full statute can be found in the Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 39-11-611. The critical elements of this law are that:

You may use deadly force only if you have a reasonable belief of an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury
If you do not have all of these elements, do not even show your weapon—you will likely be facing a criminal charge
You get the protection of this law only if you are not engaged in unlawful activity and you’re in a place where you have a right to be[1]
You CANNOT use deadly force to protect property because there is no danger of death or serious bodily injury: the threat has to be against a person, not a thing
The threat has to be imminent: it has to be about to happen now
You do not have a duty to retreat before using deadly force if you hold a reasonable belief of an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, and you do not have to give any kind of warning, verbal or otherwise
The no duty to retreat concept applies in and around your home, as well as out in public
What to do afterward

If you are in a self-defensive shooting, the moments following it are going to be extremely emotional. Your body will probably be raging with adrenaline and your heart beating faster than you’ve ever felt. You will have just had a deadly threat on your life or the life of someone close to you. Perhaps you have killed a person. Soon, the police are going to be on the scene and they’re going to want to know what happened. What do you do? You may want to consider the following:

First and foremost, you probably should not make any kind of statement to the police without consulting with an attorney. You likely will not be in any shape emotionally or psychologically to be giving an account of what happened. Your memory may not be accurate, and you could easily get too excited and say the wrong thing. Legally, there is too much on the line for you to do this. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you.
If you decide to talk to the police right way, it’s probably best to convey to them that you were justified in what you did. Make it short and concise. “I thought he was going to kill me,” or “I was in fear for my life” are good statements. This could go a long way in establishing that you had a reasonable belief of an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Tell the police that you intend to cooperate, but that you must speak with your attorney before making any more statements. Simply tell them, “I want to talk to my lawyer now.” When you invoke your right to counsel, the questioning must cease. If it does not then anything gotten beyond that is inadmissible.
It may be a good idea to ask to be taken to the hospital. Why do this? First, you may very well need to be checked out by a doctor. Your heart is going to be running like a freight train. Second, if you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the shooting then a medical report will show that. This could be critical evidence for possible future legal proceedings, criminal or civil. Third, being in the care of a physician will keep you out of jail or an interrogation room at the police station, and will give your family and/or attorney time to get to you.
You need to be planning for what to do after a shooting now, not when it happens. When it happens you won’t have time to plan, and furthermore you’re not going to be in the right frame of mind to even try. Take the time now to think about these kinds of situations, and discuss them with someone you trust.

About me

I practice criminal law in Memphis and the surrounding areas and I’m a firearms enthusiast. As such, I am passionate about educating people on the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership. If you have any questions about what I’ve covered in this guide, or about any other area of criminal law, I encourage you to call me at (901) 526-7770. You also may email me at stegall.patrick@gmail.com.

Patrick Stegall
Attorney and Counselor
8 South Third St. 5th Floor
Memphis, TN 38103
http://www.stegall-law.com

Disclaimer

This guide is not intended to be legal advice for your particular situation. Furthermore, it does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This is simply an interpretation of the current Tennessee laws (as of January 2009), along with my observations and those of other armed citizens that I have spoken with. It’s impossible for me to give legal advice on a case that hasn’t yet happened. What the best course of action is in your particular situation is going to depend on the facts. Should you find yourself in need of legal advice or the services of an attorney, please contact me as soon as possible.

[1] There is an exception to this. Despite this language, you still get the protection of the self-defense law if you are carrying your firearm in a place where it is not allowed, such as a school, and you do actually use it in justifiable self-defense.
Edited by molonlabetn, 08 October 2009 – 02:51 PM.
Removed reference to carrying where alcohol is served from footnote due to change in TN law.

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2 Responses to “Use of deadly force in TN”

  1. “[1] There is an exception to this. Despite this language, you still get the protection of the self-defense law if you are carrying your firearm in a place where it is not allowed, such as a school, and you do actually use it in justifiable self-defense.”

    Would this exception also apply to using a knife in self-defense on a college campus where carrying said knife is not allowed?

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