Self-defense laws in the US typically justify a person’s use of lethal force in public in situations where lethal force was necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily harm to themselves or another person. Traditionally, these laws have been clear that taking human life is not necessary, and is therefore not justified, if the person could have avoided using lethal violence by retreating, or simply stepping away from a confrontation. A person does not have a duty to retreat from a conflict before using force in their home, however (known as the Castle Doctrine).1
Stand your ground laws upend centuries of legal tradition, allowing a person to use deadly force in self-defense in public, even if that force can be safely avoided by retreating or when nonlethal force would suffice.
Though Oregon does not have a stand your ground statute, the state supreme court has held that there is no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense in public.2 Oregon law allows for the use of deadly force to prevent certain property crimes.3
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- American Bar Association, “National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws: Report and Recommendations,” (September 2015): 1.
- State v. Sandoval, 342 Ore. 506, 513-514 (2007) (“The legislature did not intend to require a person to retreat before using deadly force against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another.”); State v. Lang, 215 Ore. App. 15, 18 (2007).
- Oregon allows deadly force to be used if someone is committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a dwelling, and for second degree burglary the dwelling does not need to be occupied. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 161.219.