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New York Self Defense Laws

The concept of self defense is a widely accepted legal doctrine that acknowledges that one has the right to use force to protect oneself from harm. The right extends to the protection of others and in some cases property. This behavior is appropriate even when the action under all other circumstances would be considered a crime. Embracing this general principle is fairly standard; every state in the nation has a version of self defense laws. However, there are variations regarding the scope and the extent of acceptable force used and the circumstances under which it may apply. For example, some states have "stand your ground" laws which provide individuals with more leniency when it comes to using deadly force.

New York Self Defense: The Castle Doctrine

New York is not a stand your ground state, but the state does follow a similar doctrine called the "castle doctrine," which allows individuals to use deadly force to defend their homes against intruders. The key distinction between stand your ground and the castle doctrine is that the castle doctrine designates this justification for people in their homes. The rationale is that your home is "your castle" or safe refuge, and that you should not have to run away from your home when defending it against invaders.

Duty to Retreat

What the stand your ground and castle doctrine have in common is that there is no duty to retreat. According to the duty to retreat principles, when an individual is under immediate threat of harm, they are required to retreat from the threat as much as possible. Only then, can the individual use force for self defense purposes; the use of deadly force is considered a last resort.

New York Self Defense Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of state laws related to New York self defense laws, including links to important code sections.


Use of physical force

Justification is a defense in the following instances:

  • Use of physical force when such conduct is required or authorized by law or judicial decree or is performed by a public servant exercising reasonable exercise of official duties, power, functions
  • Conduct necessary as emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury
  • Parent/guardian may use physical not deadly force to maintain discipline or promote welfare for the child
  • Warden or other correctional official may use physical force to maintain discipline and order
  • A common carrier may use physical force to prevent death or serious physical injury
  • A physician may use physical force for treatment purposes
  • A person may use physical force in self-defense, or defense of a third party, premises, or to prevent larceny or in order to effect an arrest or prevent an escape from custody

Use of physical force in defense of a person

A person may use physical force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself/ herself or a third party when there is a reasonable belief of imminent use of unlawful physical force

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.

New York Self Defense Laws: Related Resources

Get Help from a Criminal Lawyer

New York self defense laws can be confusing, making it difficult to understand when physical force is appropriate. If you're concerned about how these laws affect your situation, you should find out more information. Get started by locating a New York criminal defense attorney near you today.

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