Mississippi law has long-recognized that a person has the right to defend himself from death or serious bodily injury at the hands of another person. Many times, a person will be charged with a violent crime, when in fact he was defending himself. Understanding Mississippi law on self-defense is critical to successfully defending these charges.
Mississippi appears to place a much higher value on self-defense than other states. Our Courts have held that a person has the “inalienable right” to use reasonable force to repel an assault by another person. A person is deemed to be acting in self-defense when he reasonably believes he is in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
Whether or not the defendant’s belief was reasonable is based on the facts existing at the time. Further, the law requires that these facts be considered from the Defendant’s standpoint. Juries are not allowed to consider facts which come to light after the assault. The only consideration is the circumstances facing the defendant at the moment the incident occurred.
Mississippi law also provides that it makes no difference if the defendant wasn’t actually in danger at all, or if he was mistaken in his belief that he was in danger. Even if the defendant is mistaken and wasn’t actually in danger, it’s still self-defense, so long as the defendant honestly believed he was about to face death or serious bodily injury.
Mississippi also allows for “preemptive strikes.” This means that a person is not required to stand around and wait to get assaulted before acting in self-defense. If a person reasonably believes he is about to be assaulted, he can strike first to prevent the assault from happening. On that note, Courts typically instruct juries as follows:
The Court instructs the jury that when a person is assaulted, or about to be assaulted, he is not required to wait until his adversary is on equal terms with him, but may rightfully anticipate his adversary’s action, and use reasonable force to prevent himself from being assaulted.
Finally, the defendant does not have the burden of proving that he acted in self-defense. The State must prove to the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.
Mississippi law goes to great lengths to protect the right of self-defense. If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Mississippi and were acting in self-defense, please contact me to discuss your case.
Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley