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Minnesota Self-Defense Laws

If you fear for your own safety, the safety of another, or the safety of your property, then you can use self-defense as justification for committing acts that normally would constitute crimes. There are variations in state laws that detail the circumstances under which you can use force to defend yourself. Some states have "stand your ground "laws which don't require that you back down from an attacker before you can use deadly force. Other states follow the "castle doctrine" variation which requires that you retreat unless someone invades your home (this includes your car or place of business in some states.

Minnesota isn't a stand your ground state. Rather, it's a duty to retreat state which means that you must back away from confrontation if it's possible. The state doesn't have a castle law per se, but it does recognize the principles of the doctrine because Minnesota law allows you to use deadly force, including shooting an intruder, to prevent a felony from occurring in your home.

Minnesota Self-Defense Laws at a Glance

Reading the relevant statutes is a natural starting point for conducting legal research. However, reading them in their entirety is often time-consuming and difficult because of the legal jargon. A condensed version of the content devoid of legalese is a useful supplement to understanding the law. Read the chart below for key takeaways concerning Minnesota's self-defense laws.


Minnesota Statutes Section 609.06 (authorized use of force)

Use of Reasonable Force

Situations where a person may use reasonable force against private citizens:

  • Resisting or aiding another to combat an offense against the person;
  • Resisting a trespass or other unlawful interference with property;
  • To prevent the escape of a person lawfully held on a charge or conviction of a crime;
  • A parent/guardian/teacher exercises authority over a child/student;
  • A common carrier against a passenger who refuses to obey lawful requirements for passenger conduct;
  • To restrain a person with mental illness or developmental disabilities from self-injury or injury to others.

Justifiable Use of Self-Defense

To successfully use self-defense, the following conditions must be present:

  • There was no aggression by the defendant;
  • The defendant believed that they were in imminent danger of great bodily harm;
  • The defendant's belief was reasonable; and
  • There was no reasonable possibility of retreat available for the defendant to avoid the threat.

Self-Defense Limitations

Duty to Retreat: If the defendant isn't in their home, Minnesota's self-defense law requires a "duty to retreat" before using deadly force, but only if retreat is possible and it doesn't put the person into more danger. Deadly force isn't authorized (outside of the home) unless there's a reasonable belief of "great bodily harm."

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Minnesota Self Defense Laws: Related Resources

Discuss Your Self-Defense Case with a Minnesota Attorney

Minnesota's self-defense laws can be used to justify your actions in a murder, manslaughter, or assault case if the facts support it. Because the laws are very complex and the standards are subjective, it's imperative to have an experienced lawyer at your side to be your advocate. Contact a Minnesota criminal attorney today for assistance.

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