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Virginia Self-Defense Laws

Most, if not all, states have self-defense laws that excuse a person's actions in the event of hurting or even killing another individual. These laws can vary greatly from state to state. For example, some states impose a duty to retreat before you can be excused for using force in self-defense. In stark contrast, other states have "stand your ground laws," which don't require a person to retreat before defending themselves. And some states have laws that combine these two ideas by implementing the "castle doctrine" where there's a general duty to retreat, but not if you're defending yourself in your home.

Understanding Virginia Self-Defense Laws

In Virginia, a person - who's not the aggressor - is justified in using force against another person if they reasonably believe that the force is necessary to protect themselves from the imminent use of force by the other person. It's important to understand that just being scared isn't enough - there must be an overt act that puts the person in danger of serious bodily injury.

Although a few of Virginia's statutes specifically address self-defense, the state's self-defense laws are mainly derived from caselaw. Virginia has a version of the castle doctrine, where deadly force is permitted if you believe an intruder in your home will cause great bodily injury or death to you or others in your home. Virginia also doesn't generally require a duty to retreat when using force against an aggressor, as long as the person using the force is innocent of provoking the attack.

Summary of Virginia's Self-Defense Laws

When you have a question about the law, you usually just want a quick and easy answer. And while reading the applicable statutes is important, these laws are usually written in legal jargon that can take a while to interpret and understand. That's why it can be helpful to read a summary of law that's free of "legalese." The chart below provides links to relevant statutes as well as a helpful summary of Virginia self-defense laws.


Virginia Code:


Justified Self-Defense: occurs when the person acting in self-defense is free from any fault in provoking the attack.

Excusable Self-Defense: occurs when the person acting in self-defense has some fault but tried to retreat or abandoned their original attack before using deadly force in self-defense.

Defense to Assault and Battery Charge

A school security officer or employee of an elementary or secondary school who acts in the course and scope of their official capacity isn't in violation of the assault and battery statute if they use reasonable and necessary force for self-defense or the defense of others.*

*Please see Section 18.2-57(G) for additional situations that serve as a defense to an assault and battery charge.

Defense to Brandishing a Firearm Charge

It's unlawful to hold, point, or brandish a firearm, air or gas operated weapon, or any object that's similar in appearance in a way that would reasonably induce fear in another person unless a person is engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense.

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.

Virginia Self-Defense Laws: Related Resources

You can learn more information related to this topic by clicking the links below.

Question About Virginia Self Defense Laws? Get Protected with Legal Help

Crimes that result in serious injury or death are treated seriously. But sometimes hurting or even killing someone may be justified if it resulted from trying to defend yourself. If you've been charged with a violent crime in Virginia, it's a good idea to speak with a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and start crafting the best defense to the criminal charges you're facing.

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