The Short Answer Is You Do
Video Transcribed: Hello, this is Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney, Brian Jackson. Do you have a right to self-defense if you are the victim of domestic violence in Oklahoma incident at the hands of your spouse or live-in girlfriend? The short answer is you do.
Under Oklahoma law, you do have a right to reasonable self-defense if somebody attempts to use unlawful force against you. For example, if she winds up and tries to take a swing at you, you do have a right to self-defense. There are a couple of buts to go along with that though.
The first thing is, if you’re talking about somebody who lives in your household, then you do not get the benefit of Castle Doctrine. What Castle Doctrine is, is basically it’s an old rule in self-defense that if you use… and it usually comes into play with deadly force by the way.
But if you use force in self-defense, usually deadly force in the case of Castle Doctrine, against an intruder in your home or place of business or your vehicle, you get a presumption that that deadly force was reasonable. That individual who intruded into your space is in fact there to do you mortal harm.
Castle Doctrine does not come into play, however, when you’re talking about another person who is a resident at the same place. If it’s your spouse or one of your kids or your live-in girlfriend, then you do not get the benefit of Castle Doctrine, which means that whatever force you use has to be reasonable.
And that’s the rub. If you get into a physical confrontation as a man with a woman, if he-said/she-said scenario, then you do run the risk of getting arrested as the quote-unquote, “perpetrator”. And you maybe end up having to sort that out later.
For this reason, although you don’t strictly speaking have a duty to retreat in Oklahoma, we are a stand-your-ground state. You do not have a duty to retreat if you were confronted with deadly force or even non-deadly force. The fact of the matter is that if you can get out of that situation before it escalates, or if it has escalated if you can safely escape from her without using force you’re better off doing so.
Because as a practical matter, if you do use force and it leaves a mark, and it becomes a he-said/she-said situation, you’re probably going to get arrested. And you may beat it later at trial, particularly if you have a good set of facts to back it up, but you could still get arrested and that can result in costs.
The long and short of it is if you do get into a situation like that where you can get away, get away. If you are in a situation where things are getting heated and it’s beginning to escalate, you know this person better than anybody else if you’re romantically involved with, or you’re married to them, or you live with them. You know the warning signs. The smart thing to do is get out of that situation. Don’t let it escalate to physical violence if you can help it.
If you should find yourself in a situation that has escalated to physical violence where you are not the perpetrator, if she has aggressed against you, you want to be the first person to call the police.
That doesn’t guarantee you won’t get arrested, but it improves your odds of not getting arrested if you were the one that calls the police. You should always do this anyway in any kind of self-defense situation because it helps support the idea that you are the victim in this situation, not the perpetrator.
You do not want to be in a situation where you have to explain to a prosecutor or a court later on, or a jury, why it is that if you were defending yourself, you didn’t bother to call law enforcement if you’re defending yourself from a crime. And that’s what we’re talking about here.
If someone unreasonably uses force against you, if it’s unlawful to force, then they are committing a crime against you and you need to report that crime. And if you were forced to defend yourself, it’s very important you report that crime because then you will be seen as the victim, not the perpetrator.
And obviously, you want to be careful what you say, because whatever you say is on the record. If you are in a heated escalating situation, obviously, you want to keep what you say to a bare minimum of, “I’ve been attacked. I need law enforcement right away. I may also need an ambulance.” I think you keep it short and to the point, and don’t be volunteering a lot of details. And particularly if you ever find yourself in any kind of a deadly force situation, you definitely want to keep it to a bare minimum of what’s necessary to get law enforcement in an ambulance there.
You will be, obviously, upset and you’re not going to make your best statement. And the fact of the matter is, whatever you say is going to be on the record and will come up in court later if you get that far, so be careful what you say.
The last thing I’m going to tell you is if you find yourself in one of these situations where you are involved in any kind of domestic situation whatsoever, you need a lawyer. You need a lawyer immediately. Even if you were lucky enough to get to the police first, you called the cops, they don’t arrest you, they arrest her, you need a lawyer. Because I can tell you right now that it’s going to be a he-said/she-said situation. There will be repercussions.
You’ll need a lawyer too to protect your rights in terms of getting a protective order if that’s necessary. Making sure that if there are criminal charges filed against her that they get pushed through. If you need to get divorced, the attorney can help you with that. If you need to separate property out with a live-in, an attorney can help you with that. Get a lawyer involved.