Self-Defense in Oregon – Know Your Rights

Self-defense in Oregon is a mixture of common law, statutory law, and caselaw. Self-defense can be used to protect property, defend yourself from physical force, violence, or attack, and even deadly physical force in certain situations.

Self-Defense in Oregon

An Act of Self-Defense in Oregon Must Be Intentional

You cannot exercise self-defense in Oregon on accident. For example, in State v. Stalder, 117 Or App 289 (1992), the defendant testified at trial that the weapon he used discharged by accident. Because the force used in his part was not intentional, he was not entitled to a self-defense jury instruction.

Oregon Self-Defense in Defense of Property

ORS 161.229 provides that physical force may be used in defense of property under the following circumstances:

A person is justified in using physical force, other than deadly physical force, upon another person when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it to be necessary to prevent or terminate the commission or attempted commission by the other person of theft or criminal mischief of property.

Oregon law provides (in ORS 161.225) that force can be used in defense of premises under the following conditions:

(1) A person in lawful possession or control of premises is justified in using physical force upon another person when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or terminate what the person reasonably believes to be the commission or attempted commission of a criminal trespass by the other person in or upon the premises.

(2) A person may use deadly physical force under the circumstances set forth in subsection (1) of this section only:

(a) In defense of a person as provided in ORS 161.219; or

(b) When the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent the commission of arson or a felony by force and violence by the trespasser.

(3) As used in subsection (1) and subsection (2)(a) of this section, premises includes any building as defined in ORS 164.205 and any real property. As used in subsection (2)(b) of this section, premises includes any building.

Use of Physical Force in Defense of a Person

Oregon law, per ORS 161.209 allows for use of physical force in defense of a person as follows:

Except as provided in ORS 161.215 and 161.219, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person reasonably believes to be necessary for the purpose.

Deadly Physical Force in Oregon

“Deadly physical force” is defined in Oregon as “physical force that under the circumstances in which it is used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.”ORS 161.015

Notwithstanding the general right in Oregon to use physical force in defense of a person, ORS 161.219 places further limitations on the use of deadly physical force.

Notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 161.209, a person is not justified in using deadly physical force upon another person unless the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or attempting to commit a felony involving the use or threatened imminent use of physical force against a person; or

(2) Committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling; or

(3) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force against a person.

The State Has the Burden to Disprove Self-Defense in Oregon

A criminal defendant is entitled to have his theory of the case presented to the jury at trial if there is evidence to support it. It is legal error for a judge to refuse a self-defense instruction, if requested by a defendant and supported by any evidence. Once the self-defence claim is raised, the government has the burden of disproving it beyond a reasonable doubt. ORS 161.055(1)

Know When to Ask for Legal Representation

If you’ve used force or deadly force in Oregon to protect your property, your home, yourself, or someone else, it’s not enough to simply say to the police, “I acted in self-defense.” If you are under investigation for a crime or if you’ve been charged with a crime, you’re going to need a criminal defense attorney. Invoke your right to remain silent immediately, request a reasonable opportunity to communicate with an attorney at the earliest possibility, and contact us immediately.


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