It may be easy for many people in New York to greet claims of self-defense as a justification for supposed criminal action with skepticism. Yet such skepticism overlooks the fact that there may indeed be scenarios where onen feels as though they have no choice to respond to the threat posed by another with force.
The question then becomes to what extent does the law tolerate such a reaction. Can a person justifiably act against another any time that they feel threatened, or is that right limited? To know that answer, one must understand a unique legal principle known as “the Castle Doctine.”
Detailing the Castle Doctrine
Most may assume that one can act in self-defense anytime, anywhere. Such a stance reflects the legal doctrine of “Stand Your Ground,’ which places no restrictions on the circumstances in which one can react in defensive force. All they need is a reasonable concern for their personal safety. Yet New York does not subscribe to the principle of “Stand Your Ground”; rather, it follows the aforementioned Castle Doctrine.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Castle Doctrine does allow one to act in self-defense, but only when one is attempting to unlawfully enter into their home (or remove them or forcefully from such a location). The Castle Doctrine also extends that right to one defending themselves while in their vehicle or at work.
New York’s self-defense laws
Section 35.10 of New York’s Penal Law states that one can justifiably act against another in defense of themselves, a third person, their premises, or to prevent criminal mischeif from occurring against their property. The law also permits one to act forcefully against a minor over whom they serve as a legal guardian or over whom they have a responsibility for their safety.