Self Defense Laws
Delaware

Reference: Delaware Revised Statutes Title 13A Criminal Code

This section contain excerpts of this states revised statutes as they pertain to self defense laws.
Contents

Defense Laws

  • § 463. Same – Choice of evils.
    Unless inconsistent with the ensuing sections of this Criminal Code defining justifiable use of physical force, or with some other provisions of law, conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable when it is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no fault of the defendant, and which is of such gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding such injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense in issue. The necessity and justifiability of such conduct may not rest upon considerations pertaining only to the morality and advisability of the statute, either in its general application or with respect to its application to a particular class of cases arising thereunder.
  • § 464. Same – Use of force in self-protection.
    (a) The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting the defendant against the use of unlawful force by the other person on the present occasion.
    (b) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (d) and (e) of this section, a person employing protective force may estimate the necessity thereof under the circumstances as the person believes them to be when the force is used, without retreating, surrendering possession, doing any other act which the person has no legal duty to do or abstaining from any lawful action.
    (c) The use of deadly force is justifiable under this section if the defendant believes that such force is necessary to protect the defendant against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat.
    (d) The use of force is not justifiable under this section to resist an arrest which the defendant knows or should know is being made by a peace officer, whether or not the arrest is lawful.
    (e) The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section if:
    (1) The defendant, with the purpose of causing death or serious physical injury, provoked the use of force against the defendant in the same encounter; or
    (2) The defendant knows that the necessity of using deadly force can be avoided with complete safety by retreating, by surrendering possession of a thing to a person asserting a claim of right thereto or by complying with a demand that the defendant abstain from performing an act which the defendant is not legally obligated to perform except that:
    a. The defendant is not obliged to retreat in or from the defendant’s dwelling; and
    b. The defendant is not obliged to retreat in or from the defendant’s place of work, unless the defendant was the initial aggressor; and
    c. A public officer justified in using force in the performance of the officer’s duties, or a person justified in using force in assisting an officer or a person justified in using force in making an arrest or preventing an escape, need not desist from efforts to perform the duty or make the arrest or prevent the escape because of resistance or threatened resistance by or on behalf of the person against whom the action is directed.
  • § 465. Same – Use of force for the protection of other persons.
    (a) The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable to protect a third person when:
    (1) The defendant would have been justified under § 464 of this title in using such force to protect the defendant against the injury the defendant believes to be threatened to the person whom the defendant seeks to protect; and
    (2) Under the circumstances as the defendant believes them to be, the person whom the defendant seeks to protect would have been justified in using such protective force; and
    (3) The defendant believes that intervention is necessary for the protection of the other person.
    (b) Although the defendant would have been obliged under § 464 of this title to retreat, to surrender the possession of a thing or to comply with a demand before using force in self-protection, there is no obligation to do so before using force for the protection of another person, unless the defendant knows that the defendant can thereby secure the complete safety of the other person.
    (c) When the person whom the defendant seeks to protect would have been obliged under
  • § 464 of this title to retreat, to surrender the possession of a thing or to comply with a demand if the person knew that the person could obtain complete safety by so doing, the defendant is obliged to try to cause the person to do so before using force in the person’s protection if the actor knows that complete safety can be secured in that way.
    (d) Neither the defendant nor the person whom the defendant seeks to protect is obliged to retreat when in the other’s dwelling or place of work to any greater extent than in their own.
  • § 466. Same – Use of force for the protection of property.
    (a) The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable when the defendant believes that such force is immediately necessary:
    (1) To prevent the commission of criminal trespass or burglary in a building or upon real property in the defendant’s possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection the defendant acts; or
    (2) To prevent entry upon real property in the defendant’s possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection the defendant acts; or
    (3) To prevent theft, criminal mischief or any trespassory taking of tangible, movable property in the defendant’s possession or in the possession of another person for whose protection the defendant acts.
    (b) The defendant may in the circumstances named in subsection (a) of this section use such force as the defendant believes is necessary to protect the threatened property, provided that the defendant first requests the person against whom force is used to desist from interference with the property, unless the defendant believes that:
    (1) Such a request would be useless; or
    (2) It would be dangerous to the defendant or another person to make the request; or
    (3) Substantial harm would be done to the physical condition of the property which is sought to be protected before the request could effectively be made.
    (c) The use of deadly force for the protection of property is justifiable only if the defendant believes that:
    (1) The person against whom the force is used is attempting to dispossess the defendant of the defendant’s dwelling otherwise than under a claim of right to its possession; or
    (2) The person against whom the deadly force is used is attempting to commit arson, burglary, robbery or felonious theft or property destruction and either:
    a. Had employed or threatened deadly force against or in the presence of the defendant; or b. Under the circumstances existing at the time, the defendant believed the use of force other than deadly force would expose the defendant, or another person in the defendant’s presence, to the reasonable likelihood of serious physical injury.
    (d) Where a person has used force for the protection of property and has not been convicted for any crime or offense connected with that use of force, such person shall not be liable for damages or be otherwise civilly liable to the one against whom such force was used.
  • § 468. Same – Use of force by persons with special responsibility for care, discipline or safety of others.
    The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable if it is reasonable and moderate and:
    (1) The defendant is the parent, guardian, foster parent, legal custodian or other person similarly responsible for the general care and supervision of a child, or a person acting at the request of a parent, guardian, foster parent, legal custodian or other responsible person, and:
    a. The force is used for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the child, including the prevention or punishment of misconduct; and
    b. The force used is intended to benefit the child, or for the special purposes listed in subdivisions (2)a., (3)a., (4)a., (5), (6) and (7) of this section. The size, age, condition of the child, location of the force and the strength and duration of the force shall be factors considered in determining whether the force used is reasonable and moderate; but
    c. The force shall not be justified if it includes, but is not limited to, any of the following: Throwing the child, kicking, burning, cutting, striking with a closed fist, interfering with breathing, use of or threatened use of a deadly weapon, prolonged deprivation of sustenance or medication, or doing any other act that is likely to cause or does cause physical injury, disfigurement, mental distress, unnecessary degradation or substantial risk of serious physical injury or death; or
    (2) The defendant is a teacher or a person otherwise entrusted with the care or supervision of a child for a special purpose, and:
    a. The defendant believes the force used is necessary to further the special purpose, including the maintenance of reasonable discipline in a school, class or other group, and that the use of force is consistent with the welfare of the child; and
    b. The degree of force, if it had been used by the parent, guardian, foster parent or legal custodian of the child, would be justifiable under subdivision (1)a. and b. of this section and not enumerated under subdivision (1)c. of this section; or
    (3) The defendant is the guardian or other person similarly responsible for the general care and supervision of an incompetent person, and:
    a. The force is used for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the incompetent person, including the prevention of misconduct, or, when such incompetent person is in a hospital or other institution for care and custody, for the maintenance of reasonable discipline in such institution; and
    b. The force used is reasonable and moderate; the size, age, condition of the incompetent person, location of the force and the strength and duration of the force shall be factors considered in determining whether the force used is reasonable and moderate; and
    c. The force is not enumerated under subdivision (1)c.; and
    d. The force is not proscribed as abuse or mistreatment under Chapter 11 of Title 16; or
    (4) The defendant is a doctor or other therapist or a person assisting at the doctor’s or other therapist’s direction, and:
    a. The force is used for the purpose of administering a recognized form of treatment which the defendant believes to be adapted to promoting the physical or mental health of the patient; and
    b. The treatment is administered with the consent of the patient or, if the patient is a minor or an incompetent person, with the consent of a parent, guardian or other person legally competent to consent in the patient’s behalf, or the treatment is administered in an emergency when the defendant believes that no one competent to consent can be consulted and that a reasonable person, wishing to safeguard the welfare of the patient, would consent; or
    (5) The defendant is a warden or other authorized official of a correctional institution, or a superintendent, administrator or other authorized official of the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Service, and:
    a. The defendant believes that the force used is necessary for the purpose of enforcing the lawful rules or procedures of the institution; and
    b. The nature or degree of force used is not forbidden by any statute governing the administration of the institution; and
    c. If deadly force is used, its use is otherwise justifiable under this Criminal Code; or
    (6) The defendant is a person responsible for the safety of a vessel or an aircraft or a person acting at the responsible person’s direction, and:
    a. The defendant believes that the force used is necessary to prevent interference with the operation of the vessel or aircraft or obstruction of the execution of a lawful order; and
    b. If deadly force is used, its use is otherwise justifiable under this Criminal Code; or
    (7) The defendant is a person who is authorized or required by law to maintain order or decorum in a vehicle, train or other carrier or in a place where others are assembled, and:
    a. The defendant believes that the force used is necessary for such purpose; and
    b. The force used is not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death, physical injury or extreme mental distress.
  • § 469. Same – Person unlawfully in dwelling.
    In the prosecution of an occupant of a dwelling charged with killing or injuring an intruder who was unlawfully in said dwelling, it shall be a defense that the occupant was in the occupant’s own dwelling at the time of the offense, and:
    (1) The encounter between the occupant and intruder was sudden and unexpected, compelling the occupant to act instantly; or
    (2) The occupant reasonably believed that the intruder would inflict personal injury upon the occupant or others in the dwelling; or
    (3) The occupant demanded that the intruder disarm or surrender, and the intruder refused to do so.
  • § 470. Provisions generally applicable to justification.
    (a) When the defendant believes that the use of force upon or toward the person of another is necessary for any of the purposes for which such relief would establish a justification under §§ 462-468 of this title but the defendant is reckless or negligent in having such belief or in acquiring or failing to acquire any knowledge or belief which is material to the justifiability of the use of force, the justification afforded by those sections is unavailable in a prosecution for an offense for which recklessness or negligence, as the case may be, suffices to establish culpability.
    (b) When the defendant is justified under §§ 462-468 of this title in using force upon or toward the person of another but the defendant recklessly or negligently injures or creates a risk of injury to innocent persons, the justification afforded by those sections is unavailable in a prosecution for an offense involving recklessness or negligence towards innocent persons.
  • § 471. Definitions relating to justification.
    (a) “Force,” in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes confinement.
    (b) “Physical force” means force used upon or directed toward the body of another person.
    (c) “Unlawful force” means force which is employed without the consent of the person against whom it is directed and the employment of which constitutes an offense or actionable tort or would constitute such offense or tort except for a defense (such as the absence of intent, negligence or mental capacity; duress; youth; or diplomatic status) not amounting to a privilege to use the force. Assent constitutes consent, within the meaning of this section, whether or not it otherwise is legally effective, except assent to the infliction of death or serious bodily harm.
    (d) “Deadly force” means force which the defendant uses with the purpose of causing or which the defendant knows creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious physical injury. Purposely firing a firearm in the direction of another person or at a vehicle in which another person is believed to be constitutes deadly force. A threat to cause death or serious bodily harm, by the production of a weapon or otherwise, so long as the defendant’s purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that deadly force will be used if necessary, does not constitute deadly force.
    (e) “Dwelling” means any building or structure, though movable or temporary, or a portion thereof, which is for the time being the defendant’s home or place of lodging.
    Weapons Laws
  • § 1452. Unlawfully dealing with knuckles-combination knife; class B misdemeanor.
    A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a knuckles-combination knife when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a knife, the blade of which is supported by a knuckle ring grip handle.
    Unlawfully dealing with a knuckles-combination knife is a class B misdemeanor.
    § 1453. Unlawfully dealing with martial arts throwing star; class B misdemeanor.
    A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a martial arts throwing star when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a sharp metal throwing star.
    Unlawfully dealing with a martial arts throwing star is a class B misdemeanor.
    § 1446. Unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife; unclassified misdemeanor
    A person is guilty of unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife when the person sells, offers for sale or has in possession a knife, the blade of which is released by a spring mechanism or by gravity.
    Unlawfully dealing with a switchblade knife is an unclassified misdemeanor.

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