Q: What does the Idaho “stand your ground” law give me the right to do, in particular in utilizing a firearm?

A: Homicide is the killing of a human being. The killing of a human being is legally justified or excused under the law when done in self-defense, or the defense of another. A person may use such degree and extent of force as would appear to be reasonably necessary to prevent the threatened harm.

People often wonder if using a firearm in self-defense is legal. People worry that by using a firearm they may end up in trouble. In Idaho, people may use a firearm in self-defense so long as it is reasonable.

For example, if someone comes up to a person while in their car, and verbally orders them to get out because they are going to steal the car, that person would likely not be justified in killing them with a gun. On the other hand, if a person is sleeping and an intruder enters their home, and while holding a knife charges them, and the person kills the intruder with a firearm; under those circumstances the person likely would be justified in using a firearm in self-defense.

Any use of force, whether with a firearm or not, beyond the reasonableness limit is against the law and is considered unjustified. Therefore, a person is not justified in using a degree of force clearly in excess of what is apparent and reasonably necessary under the existing facts and circumstances.

In Idaho there is also no legal duty to retreat. In the exercise of the right of self-defense, a person is not required to retreat, they may stand their ground to protect themselves or to protect another. Additionally, a person may continue to defend themselves until the threat or danger dissipates, so long as it is reasonable. This law applies even though the person being attacked or defended might more easily have gained safety by retreating.

It’s easy to know the right thing to do after something has happened, opposed to having to make a reactionary split-second decision. Reasonableness is determined by what an ordinary person would do if they were placed in the same situation, what they were actually perceiving, what they actually saw, and what they experienced in the same way as it was happening.

The state of Idaho has a long-standing precedent of recognizing a citizen’s right to self-defense. This right includes the use of deadly force when necessary. The law requires the use of reasonable force in defending oneself or in the defense of another.

E. Alex Muir is a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Bonneville County. This column is provided by the 7th District Bar Association as a public service. Submit questions to "It's the Law," P.O. Box 50130, Idaho Falls, ID 83405, or by email to rfarnam@holdenlegal.com. This column is for general information. Readers with specific legal questions should consult an attorney. A lawyer referral service is provided by calling the Idaho State Bar Association in Boise at 208-334-4500.