Self-Defense in Minnesota

An affirmative defense most people are familiar with is self-defense. But, few know what it means and how it’s applied in the law.

Self-defense in Minnesota is a complete defense to a charge if raised successfully. Essentially, the defendant claims the force used was necessary to avoid an immediate threat of harm against him or her (a recent court of appeals decision held that it applies to any offense against the defendant, not just violent offenses). There are four elements to a self-defense claim:

(1) an absence of aggression or provocation; (2) an actual and honest belief that imminent death or great bodily harm would result; (3) a reasonable basis existed for this belief; and (4) an absence of reasonable means to retreat or otherwise avoid the physical conflict.

If these elements are satisfied, the defendant must use only the “reasonable force” necessary to remove themselves from the situation.

As you review the law, you’ll notice a common word – reasonable. This means that there is a lot of room for interpretation in each case. What might be a reasonable amount of force used in one scenario may not be reasonable in another – after all, one can use lethal force in self-defense; obviously, just not in all situations. And whether there exists a reasonable opportunity to retreat is certainly debatable.

One of the primary benefits in raising a self-defense affirmative defense is that, once successfully raised, the State then bears the burden of disproving one of the elements of self-defense. So, not only must the State carry its heavy burden of proving the defendant is guilty, but it must then also disprove the self-defense claim.

Self-defense in Minnesota requires attention to details and the ability to argue the facts to support why the actions were reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. If you face a crime of violence charge – even a disorderly conduct charge – you need to get an experienced Minnesota self-defense lawyer to help you fight the case and raise all available defenses. North Star Criminal Defense is the team you need. We are Not Always Minnesota Nice to your benefit.