The United States has become a patchwork of “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws that give people some leeway in using lethal force without criminal consequences if they’re protecting themselves, others and/or their homes against a threat of imminent harm.
Hawaii is currently considered a “duty to retreat” state. That means a person has that duty, if they can do so, before they can lawfully use lethal force against someone who is seeking to cause harm. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would change that.
“Choice of evils”
The current law can be somewhat confusing. It talks about a “choice of evils” when determining whether to take action against someone. Specifically, it says, “Conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid an imminent harm or evil to the actor or to another is justifiable [if the]…harm or evil sought to be avoided by such conduct is greater than that sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense charged….”
The law makes exceptions. For example, it doesn’t apply if someone was “reckless or negligent in bringing about the situation requiring a choice of harms or evils.”
How the law may be amended
As noted, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would amend and clarify the law. The current language in the bill states that it seeks to “[c]larify that a person who uses deadly force to protect against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, rape, or forcible sodomy does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in their dwelling or on their property, unless the person is the initial aggressor….”
Further, the legislation, which is called “Relating to Safety at Home,” would omit the language in the current law that states, “The actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor….”
Of course, the language of the law (let alone proposed changes to it) is likely not crossing your mind if you believe that you or someone else is in danger of serious harm and that you need to take immediate and forceful action. That’s why if you’re facing assault or other charges related to a violent crime that you carried out in self-defense or to protect others, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal guidance to protect your rights and present your case as effectively as possible.