Timothy O. McCalep

The importance of an attorney

In our last post, we mentioned the importance of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend against charges under Georgia’s concealed carry law. Working with an experienced attorney is particularly important in cases where an individual is charged with using a firearm to inflict illegal deadly force upon another.  

As we previously noted, personal gun ownership is justified largely on the basis of personal defense, and rightly so. The law governing personal defense with firearms is important for all firearms owners to understand, and it has an important place in criminal cases where an individual is criminally charged for the death of another as a result of a deadly encounter. 

Under Georgia law, the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily harm is legally justified only when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the gun owner himself, to another individual, or to prevent a forcible felony from occurring. Provocation, commission or attempted commission of a felony, or involvement in a fight by agreement—unless consent to the fight is withdrawn—do not justify the use of deadly force, with or without a firearm.  

Breaking and entering situations can easily result in the use of deadly force with a firearm. There are several potential justifications for the use of intentionally or potentially deadly force in cases of breaking and entering:

  • The entry is violent and there is a reasonable belief that the purpose of illegal entry is to cause harm to individuals in the home;
  • The person who entered the home is not a member of the family or household and there is a reasonable belief that the individual unlawfully and forcibly entered the home;
  • There is a reasonable belief that the purpose of the breaking and entry is aimed at the commission of a felony which only the use of deadly force can prevent.

The use of deadly force may also be justified in order to protect real property which is threatened by the commission of a forcible felony, provided there is a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to prevent the offense from occurring.

One of the bases of the law of deadly force is that deadly force must be used reasonably under the circumstances. This reasonableness requirement does not include a duty to retreat from an aggressor or perpetrator. Rather, a victim or potential victim has the right to stand his or her ground. The use of force under such circumstances is justified, unless the individual uses a weapon he or she is not legally permitted to possess or carry, which can be an issue in some cases.

In defending against charges of murder or manslaughter connected with the use of deadly force, establishing that the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force requires bringing forth solid evidence demonstrating that fact. This isn’t always easy to do, but skilled legal counsel can help ensure that the strongest possible case is presented to the court and that the defendant has the best possible opportunity for a favorable resolution to the case. 

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