It may be easy for many in Washington to view claims of self-defense (in response to facing criminal charges) with skepticism. This likely comes from the age-old assumption that it takes two willing participants in order for an altercation to occur.
At the same time, however, many recognize that there indeed are situations where one may feel compelled to act in their own defense (or that of their loved ones). Thus, many come to us here at Hansen Law, PLLC questioning how to respond to criminal accusations following acts of self-defense.
Identifying the underlying legal principle
The answer to this question requires that one understand the legal principle supporting their state’s self-defense statutes. Most states follow one of two distinct legal philosophies when defining defensive action: “Stand Your Ground” or “the Castle Doctrine.” The former principle allows for defensive action in almost every situation where one feels a threat to their safety (regardless of location).
The Castle Doctrine, on the other hand, follows the adage that one’s home is their veritable castle (and thus they have the right to defend it). This essentially limits legally justifiable defensive action to those scenarios when one faces a threat in their home, personal vehicle or place of business.
Citing the state’s self-defense statute
A review of Washington’s self-defense laws implies that the state subscribes to the Castle Doctrine. Indeed, Section 9A.16.020 of the state’s Revised Code shows that authorities justify defensive action (only to the extent warranted by the situation) to prevent injury, or the trespass onto or interference of their real or persona property. The same holds true when attempting to detain a person entering into (or refusing to leave) a property under one’s possession, so long as no impression exists opening said property for access by the general public.