Tennessee Self Defense Law in a Nutshell

Below is an excerpt from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s recent summary of self defense law in this State.  The case is State v. Hawkins, 406 S.W.3d 121 (Tenn. 2013).  I’ve omitted some of the citations just to reduce clutter, but you can read the full opinion here.  The Court explained as follows:

Self-defense is a complete defense against a murder charge… To prevail on the theory of self-defense, a defendant must show that he or she was “not engaged in unlawful activity” and was “in a place where the person has a right to be.” Tenn.Code Ann. § 39–11–611(b)(1) (2010). In addition, the use of deadly force in self-defense must be predicated on “a reasonable belief that there is imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.” [FN3] The danger must be “real, or honestly believed to be real [,]” [FN4] and “[t]he belief of danger [must be] founded on reasonable grounds.” [FN5] The defense of self-defense is generally not available if the defendant provoked or consented to the danger. [FN6]

FN3. Tenn.Code Ann. § 39–11–611(b)(2)(A).

FN4. Tenn.Code Ann. § 39–11–611(b)(2)(B).

FN5. Tenn.Code Ann. § 39–11–611(b)(2)(C).

FN6. Tenn.Code Ann. § 39–11–611(e)(1)–(2).

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