Protecting yourself and what is rightfully yours is serious business for most Minnesotans.
When someone threatens you or your property, is it allowed under the law to defend yourself with deadly force, though? A Minneapolis shop owner is about to find out.
Last summer, as protests and looting were happening around the city, an owner of a Minneapolis store shot and killed a man outside of his business. Many may see this as a justified shooting, but Minnesota law disagrees.
Here’s what you need to know about justifiable homicide in Minnesota – when it is allowed and what charges you can face is the law doesn’t agree with your perception of the situation in which you used deadly force.
Self Defense Laws in Minnesota
In the state of Minnesota, anyone facing the threat of imminent bodily injury or harm in some circumstances can use force to defend themselves. However, if you want to claim self-defense then you must prove all of these things in court:
- The victim was the aggressor in the situation
- You perceived or had a real fear of harm to your person
- Your belief of harm was reasonable
- You did not provoke the attack
- There was no reasonable opportunity to escape or retreat
Claiming self-defense is something that has limitations and a person’s use of force must appear to a judge or jury as reasonable.
Furthermore, you can only use the force necessary to prevent an attack or protect yourself from harm. In other words, the force used must be proportionate to the threat posed.
The Duty to Retreat in Minnesota
In Minnesota, you cannot use self-defense outside of your own home unless you have exhausted what is called the duty to retreat.
This means when you are faced with the threat of bodily harm or injury, you must first try to get to a safe location and remove yourself from the situation. If that retreat isn’t available or you cannot do so safely, only then can you act in self-defense and use reasonable force.
Additionally, it should also be noted that deadly force is only allowed in Minnesota as a last resort. If used outside of the home, then you must be able to show that:
- You did not have a reasonable opportunity to retreat; and
- That there was a reasonable belief of imminent danger or bodily harm.
Many people who use deadly force as a form of self-defense can face criminal charges such as murder if they had the opportunity to retreat and did not.
What About Justifiable Homicide?
In Minnesota, it is legal to shoot and even kill someone who breaking into your home and threatening them with death or great bodily harm.
Of course, as discussed above, this comes with caveats of proportional force. Once the threat is eliminated, you must stop using force as well.
In court, proving that a homicide is justifiable requires you to prove that you were feeling as if your life was threatened and that the person you shot was attempting to enter your home.
The Minnesota shop owner at the start of this article will likely face charges because the idea of justifiable homicide does not cover the shop he owned.
He will likely have to prove that he could not retreat from the situation, and that’s probably going to be a tough argument. Every suspect is innocent until proven guilty however and ultimately, only the courts can decide the matter.
Will You Be Charged with Murder?
If you protect your home and end up killing someone, can you be charged with murder? The short answer is, “Yes, you can.”
In most cases, if someone is threatening you and attempting to break into your home and you act in self-defense but kill that person, then it may be charged as voluntary manslaughter.
In Minnesota, voluntary manslaughter occurs when someone is killed in the heat of passion or during an act where someone in similar circumstances would reasonably be provoked to take the same action.
If you are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the first degree, then you can face up to 15 years in prison and be responsible for fines of as much as $30,000.
At the end of the day, justifiable homicide is a defense to the killing of another person. If you can prove that the killing was something that could legally be justified, then you may be able to secure a ruling of innocence.
An experienced attorney can argue that you were acting in defense of yourself and others but remember that the burden is on the defense team.
They must prove that the actions you’ve taken were reasonable and that you attempted to retreat but could not. If that can’t be proven, then justifiable homicide as a defense will otherwise fall apart.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.