The People’s Lawyer

What you need to remember about self-defense in West Virginia

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Criminal Defense

In any public gathering, emotions can run high – especially when alcohol is involved. Unfortunately, it only takes a few drinks before some people show the worst sides of themselves, especially when they’re inclined to be aggressive.

You know you have the right to protect your home and family from intruders, thanks to the “Castle Doctrine,” but what are your rights to defend yourself in public? Every state is a little different. Here’s what you need to remember in West Virginia:

West Virginia is a “stand your ground” state

Under the law, if you have a lawful right to be in the space you are in and are not engaged in any kind of criminal activity, you are under no duty to retreat. That means you do not have to try to look for an escape route or leave the area simply because of another person’s threats.

In addition, you are entitled to “meet force with force,” so long as:

  • You reasonably believe that force is required to prevent serious injury to yourself
  • You reasonably believe that force is required to prevent serious injury to another
  • You are acting to prevent a forcible felony (like kidnapping) 

However, there is a caveat to this rule: Your level of force must be proportional to the threat posed by the other party. That means if you’re slapped by a 100-pound weakling with their open hand and you’re a 250-pound bodybuilder who is armed, you cannot pull out your weapon and fire in response. Similarly, if you are in a situation where you feel like your only resort is violence, you can’t keep hitting or shooting the other party once the threat from them is over. 

When a dispute escalates and turns violent, things can happen very fast. Charges sometimes are brought against people who were only doing their best to defend themselves and others. In those situations, the wisest thing you can do is remain silent and seek an experienced defense.